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Goldman Sachs Taps Veteran Executive to Grow High-Net-Worth Wealth Unit

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Goldman Sachs has tapped 23-year company veteran David Fox to lead the financial advisors at the registered investment advisor formerly known as United Capital. 

David Fox serves in a newly created position overseeing advisors at the former United Capital.

Photo Illustration by Barron’s Advisor Staff

The appointment elevates the longtime Goldman regional leader to a newly created position responsible for helping to further grow the RIA, which Goldman acquired three years ago as part of its efforts to serve a broader swath of wealth management clients.

Fox (an Olympic swimming gold medalist) moves over to Goldman Sachs Personal Financial Management—as the former United Capital is now called—from the company’s Private Wealth Management division, which serves the ultrawealthy and generally requires at least $10 million to open an account. There, he most recently led the Southwest regional team operating from Dallas. 

In the new position of head of advisors at PFM, Fox oversees a team focused on a lower tier of wealth as Goldman looks to build out an advisor-led service model focused on financial planning for households with $1 million to $10 million in investible assets.

Fox steps in as the head of an RIA unit that has been increasing its advisor headcount and client base and now operates around 100 branch offices around the country staffed by about 300 advisors. He jointly reports to United Capital founder Joe Duran and Larry Restieri, co-heads of the Personal Financial Management Group. In addition to the former United Capital, PFMG includes Ayco, which provides financial counseling to employees of corporate clients.

In an exclusive interview with Barron’s Advisor, Fox, who assumed his new role in February, outlined ambitious—if still developing—plans at Goldman Sachs to further expand the RIA.

“We’re still formulating what we think is possible, but if I had my way, we are going to grow this advisor force exponentially,” he said. “Certainly I would expect us over the course of the next five years to exceed 1,000 advisors in the business and hopefully more than that.” 

Goldman has some specifications for what it is (and isn’t) looking for in advisors for the RIA. First, it’s seeking professionals with a financial planning orientation. Many of its current advisors hold the CFP certification, while many of the younger professionals coming up through Goldman’s next-generation program are preparing for the exam. 

“These are staffed with very experienced planners,” Fox said of the company’s RIA branches. “They have CFAs and CFPs and law degrees and are accountants. They’re very skilled at what they do.” 

Those advisors generally have acquired the securities licenses required to operate as a broker but are also registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission or state regulators as investment advisors, triggering a fiduciary responsibility in their interactions with clients. (CFP holders operate under a fiduciary standard overseen by the CFP Board, the certifying body that administers the credential.) 

Then there is the next-gen initiative–what Goldman calls the national advisor team, which aims to produce a healthy pipeline of younger, largely fee-based advisors “that you can think of as the future growth engine for our business,” Fox said. 

“This national advisor team we are hiring out of school for the most part, or with a small number of years of experience. We are molding them into our vision of the perfect planner for the years ahead,” Fox said. “The goal will be for that team to grow to equal or grow past the size of our current advisor force.” 

Goldman places recent college graduates in a two-year training program they must complete before they can “begin advising clients more directly,” a company spokesman explained.

The impetus for expanding the RIA business at Goldman Sachs came in large part from the company’s experience with the Ayco arm of PFMG, according to Fox. Traditionally, Ayco provided in-depth financial counseling for executives at corporate clients, but in recent years it has expanded to provide financial wellness resources for rank-and-file employees. Fox said meetings with company employees made it clear that in between the C-suite and the lower-level workers there was a broad group of affluent but not ultrawealthy individuals trying to manage financial challenges like paying for their children’s education and saving for retirement, and they needed help. 

“We really started to see this gap,” Fox said.

Goldman’s solution was to build out the segment of the PFMG that Fox is now heading. “It’s an acknowledgement that the business has gotten big and important, and we want it to grow,” he said.

 On the most recent form ADV regulatory filings with the SEC, Goldman reported $17.4 billion in assets under management for the United Capital division of PFM, and $31.8 billion for Ayco. Goldman reported 75,551 accounts with United Capital, and 64,043 accounts with Ayco. 

Those ADV filings only tell part of the story, according to a Goldman Sachs spokesman. “These numbers include what is required specifically for the filings,” the spokesman said, “however, the actual numbers are significantly higher and PFM has seen substantial growth since the firm acquired United Capital.”

In its most recent quarter, Goldman reported $738 billion in assets across the segments of its consumer and wealth management division, which include PFMG, PWM, and Marcus, the digital banking and investing unit.

“What I think is unique about it is it’s a planning-led business, and so we’re not hiring your traditional investment advisors that you might find at some of our peer firms,” Fox said of PFM. Instead, Goldman is drawing on its considerable institutional resources to generate a base of client referrals, hiring young advisors, and making small, targeted acquisitions of existing advisor practices. 

The advisor team that Fox is heading is also taking a very different approach with its geographic footprint than PWM.

“It’s kind of the opposite experience from Private Wealth, where we had 13 offices, about 600 advisors, where the offices were not necessarily where our clients live,” he said.

PFM, on the other hand, is building out local offices close to its clients, Fox said. Increasingly, PFMG clients are expecting “more frequent interactions in more of a dedicated manner” with their financial planner, and Goldman is trying to oblige. “We want to be able to meet them where they are in the marketplace.”

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