Better research can lead to smarter investments by uncovering more opportunities to capture alpha and manage risk. In that ongoing pursuit, the traditional approach to doing “great research” has radically changed from just reading all available analyst and market reports to trying to keep pace with the unquenchable demand for new data sources and analysis capabilities. New InfoTech resources will themselves continue to rapidly evolve and constantly improve. That makes it all the more important for advisors and asset managers who want a competitive edge to be committed to and informed enough to be able to use the new research technology that provides investment-based data intelligence.
To better understand where we are in this investment research revolution, we recently had a discussion with Institute Founding Member Sean Brown, President and CEO of YCharts - a FinTech investment research platform that is not only transforming investment research by replacing bulky research terminals into 24/7, easy access web portals and mobile phone apps, but also focusing his company’s technologists on a wide range of investment manager needs.
Hortz: How have you designed your research platform to better support advisors and investment managers?
Brown: Innovating in a space in need of modernization, YCharts has continuously evolved to address the core pain points of its target audience—wealth managers. Our data and tools streamline user workflows in a way that no competitor can easily claim, including better client communication, improved transparency, and faster, more robust analyses on a multi-device, web-based platform.
Some recent product launches and enhancements to our datasets have further addressed the ever-evolving needs of modern wealth advisors:
- Custom Securities allow you to upload your own historical data into our platform, access performance, risk, and other metrics calculated off that data, and create holdings to use within Model Portfolios. Although YCharts offers over 26,000 equities, nearly 80,000 funds, 15,000 indices and 250,000 economic indicators as our data points, we wanted to ensure that our advisors were able to upload their own personalized data and market trends to compare ALL of their investments in one place, not just the data we offer. Prior to the Custom Securities tool, advisors would not have been able to view their cash, international stocks, bonds, annuities, or delisted security holdings on YCharts, limiting their ability to easily analyze the data and present to clients in a streamlined manner. Not only does this save our customers hours of time, but it also enables them to visualize portfolio analysis, share ideation with clients and prospects, and monitor portfolio performance in real-time, all within our web-based application.
- Dynamic Model Portfolios enable you to track portfolio allocations over time and measure their impact on performance.
- Formatted, printable and advisor-branded data table PDFs from Comp Tables, Model Portfolios, and Custom Securities were made easily available.
- New Data sets were added—COVID-19 and Vaccinations, Cryptocurrency, and Separately Managed Accounts (SMA).
Innovation is at the heart of what we do at YCharts, which might be why we have made the Inc. 5000 list for the past 5 years in a row. We are growing at an incredible rate, and it would not be possible without our constant innovation.
Hortz: What has been your strategy in determining and conducting your research efforts?
Brown: In an effort to provide our users with as much data as possible to be able to streamline client communications, we are really pulling out all the stops to supply users with a variety of different content on a broad range of timely investment topics including SPACs, model portfolios, optimal portfolio rebalancing strategies, and ESG/Impact to name a few. We hope that through all of our reports, white papers, information from our webinars and templates users see on our research platform, financial professionals are able to quickly pull data, personalize it with their logo and company colors, and send it to their then impressed and further engaged client. We strive to make the complex easy, and the easy quick.
Hortz: Besides ongoing development of your core investment research analytics platform, you seem to be adding a lot of visual and communications support for advisors with their clients. Can you discuss your development efforts and strategy around this?
Brown: Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for YCharts users to communicate their insights with clients, which includes their own branding/logos and giving them templates to start from. We built a communications framework that enables our users to communicate in a personalized way to all their clients and prospects. We conducted a client survey - How Can Advisors Better Communicate With Clients? - that informed our decision to create this framework. It’s clear that clients of financial advisors are looking for more concise and frequent means of communication. We are here to help financial advisors and other financial professionals achieve their communication strategy goals!
Lastly, we are constantly updating templates in all of our tools so that when an advisor needs to quickly pull the ‘Major Index Performance’, ‘Intraday Yield Data’, or ‘COVID Vaccination Rate’, they can easily do so with the click of a button and immediately send a visual off to their clients.
Hortz: How do you work with your advisor clients on the ongoing development of the platform?
Brown: We regularly engage our advisor clients via formal surveys as well as informal, day-to-day feedback. For instance, we are in the process of determining some new enhancements for our charting tool and will be sending a survey to our power users of the tool. We also conduct win/loss analyses and customer interviews with the product team to help us better understand the needs of our clients.
Hortz: Can you share with us what plans you have for new enhancements or tools you will be adding to your investment research platform?
Brown: We are in the process of redesigning our dashboard, to make it more configurable and informative for our customers. Additionally, we plan to expand our Fundamental Charting tool to allow for more versatility (for example, scatter plots) and personalization. Regarding personalization, our goal is to make the tool more flexible and allow advisors to annotate charts in more unique ways, really adding their voice to each touch point with clients. Plus, we are adding integrations with Redtail, and other key technology solutions used amongst advisors to ensure our platform is easily accessible and streamlined with other tools advisors use.
Hortz: What have been the benefits coming from being acquired last year by the middle market private equity firm LLR Partners?
Brown: We are excited to have partnered with LLR Partners, as they are providing great strategic support and capital backing for faster innovation and development, whether that innovation comes from building, partnering, or buying. With their significant focus on WealthTech, LLR has been great at collaborating with my leadership team to understand the evolution of the markets we serve and define our high impact growth initiatives.
In terms of funding, our business performance and financial backing has allowed tremendous growth to our toolset due to increased hiring. Prior to being acquired we had 62 employees; we just hired our 87th. This growth during the pandemic has been otherworldly and we feel very blessed.
Hortz: Any other thoughts you would like to share?
Brown: Throughout our 12 years in business, YCharts has grown at a remarkable pace of 35-45% per year and a 5-year total growth over 400%. We are confident that if we did not provide a great solution that enables wealth and asset managers to succeed and do right by their own clients, we would not have been able to achieve everything we have to date.
We built multiple powerful investment tools into a single, cohesive platform to drive idea generation, portfolio construction, analysis, visualization, and communication. We would like to invite investment professionals to follow our blog and watch our webinars as we continue to provide research, data, and new perspectives on making smarter investment decisions and engaging tools for client communications and engagement.