Joe grew up in war-torn Zimbabwe in a violent home with no financial stability. He worked his entire childhood, from selling hot dogs on weekends at 11 years old to overseeing night production at a clothing factory while attending high school. He was a mediocre student in a tough environment.
At 18, he left Africa to see the world. He wandered the globe completing impressive feats, from running with the bulls in Pamplona—he’s done this 10 times, at least once every decade of his life since 18—to camping in the mountains of Austria.
After traveling from country to country, he enrolled at Saint Louis University where he served as captain of the rugby team. While studying abroad in Madrid, he met and fell in love with his wife, Jennifer. The two then moved to her hometown of Los Angeles, and Joe started his financial career as an intern for a very small investment firm. By his late 20s, Joe became President of that firm, Centurion Capital. He sold to General Electric in December 2001.
Even though Joe built his career growing a company that helped people invest well, he felt it wasn’t taking care of what really mattered—not just for him, but for everyone who entrusted him.
Upon selling Centurion, Joe accomplished the American dream: a loving relationship with his wife, precious daughters, financial security, and a good job as President of GE Private Asset Management. But bubbling beneath the surface was a realization that money hadn’t taken care of his burning anxiety. Even though Joe built his career growing a company that helped people invest well, he felt it wasn’t taking care of what really mattered — not just for him, but for everyone who entrusted him.
Joe left his position at GE Private Asset Management and decided to spend a two-year sabbatical in graduate school where he received MBAs from both University of California Berkeley and Columbia University. At the same time, he interviewed dozens of successful entrepreneurs and wrote a book about his findings in 2002, “Start It, Sell It & Make a Mint: 20 Wealth-Creating Secrets for Business Owners.”
Those interviews taught him that he was not alone in the level of anguish he felt when it came to money, even from the most successful people. They sacrificed too much to get it, they felt like there wasn’t enough of it, and they were still anxious. It seemed no one really felt good about money.
All of this background led to the moment that birthed United Capital. Late one afternoon, Joe's mother-in-law called to ask him to recommend an advisor. She had just inherited some money and wanted to know what it would mean for her life. Could she take vacations? Could she buy a second home? Unfortunately, though he knew many advisors, Joe couldn’t think of a person or a firm that would answer his mother-in-law’s questions accurately. They would all focus on the money and investing it rather than on her life and what she wanted to accomplish.
Unfortunately, though he knew many financial advisors, Joe couldn’t think of a person or a firm that would answer his mother-in-law’s questions accurately. They would all focus on the money and investing it rather than on her life and what she wanted to accomplish.
Joe woke up in the middle of the night knowing what kind of firm he had to build. It would be a firm that would answer the questions everyone has about money, whether they are entrepreneurs or retired widows: Am I OK? Can I live the life I want?
Joe wanted to build a financial advisory company to answer these questions in a dynamic and engaging way—to create a firm that starts with a client’s life and ends with their investments, not the other way around. What would happen if he built a company that helped people live better today rather than in some distant future? What if it focused on helping people live rich and without regrets rather than dying rich and with regrets? From these questions, emerged United Capital
In the dozen years since its founding, United Capital has one of the most staggering success stories in the industry, doubling in size every few years to over $25 billion in assets today. Yet, Joe would be the first to tell you that this success isn’t because of him. It’s because he cares profoundly about building a company of deeply caring, passionately committed people who all share the same vision: to help people improve their lives by bringing truth, understanding, and discipline to the choices they make every day.
In 2019 Joe decided that becoming part of Goldman Sachs was the next logical step in serving the interests of our clients. Now, Goldman Sachs Personal Financial management delivers the best of United Capital’s independent spirit and dedication to helping clients live the life they want along with the 150 years of financial experience and discipline of Goldman Sachs.
Ultimately, your life will be the sum of your choices. Joe Duran’s book, “The Money Code,” helps you improve your financial life right now.