|Value proposition:||Client experience surveys and analytics|
|The executive team:||Chris Manker, Founder
Jim Starcev, Partner
Mark Calhoun, Partner
Richelle Stoneking, Partner
NEXA Insights helps financial advisors know what their clients are thinking. NEXA uses a tried and tested approach to gaining that knowledge—they ask. The NEXA Insights platform provides clients a comfortable environment to offer feedback. Their analytics platform provides advisors with industry-specific data regarding their client relationships and engagement. I had a chance to talk to Chris Manker, founder, and Jim Starcev, partner, with NEXA Insights about why they decided to focus on surveys and what makes their approach work.
Chris got started in wealth management in 2004 when he worked for Etelligent, a back office technology performance analysis and reporting platform started by Jim Starcev and Mark Calhoun. Chris became the lead developer at Etelligent in 2006 and continued as the lead platform developer after Etelligent’s acquisition by Charles Schwab. After leaving Schwab Chris worked as lead developer with a major healthcare survey company, a multi-billion dollar RIA and at AllBackoffice Consulting, an outsourcing provider. In 2017, Chris founded NEXA Insights based on his experience with both financial services and the science of surveying customers.
Jim went into wealth management in 1992 as a financial advisor. He also worked on the trade desk and led product management and technology integration for a broker-dealer. Based on a need Jim observed in the financial advice industry, Jim and Mark started Etelligent in 2000. Their startup grew to 50 employees by 2008, when it was sold to Charles Schwab.
“We were a major player in portfolio reporting. When Schwab acquired us, we were a bigger solution than Orion or Black Diamond; we helped carve out that space, online portfolio reporting for RIAs.” — Jim
Jim took a few years away from the industry, doing some interviews and speaking at conferences. In 2015, again with Mark, Jim co-founded PerfectCube, the big data analytics platform for retail businesses. When asked by Chris to join NEXA in 2018, Jim liked the concept of the project and called it “the most intriguing thing to bring me back into the industry.”
The idea appeared from the industry trend
After being in the industry for about 25 years, Jim says that the focus has shifted in the last decade. While there used to be a lot of focus on portfolio management, lately there’s a shift toward services and client experience. According to a J.D. Power study, customers find it crucial that advisors listen to them and pay close attention to details. As an example, even though robo-advisors can do investment management efficiently people still need personalized attention.
From the other side, financial advisors need some metrics to measure how well they are doing their job, how happy their customers are, and how the way they work affects the retention rate of their current clients as well as the ability to generate referrals and grow their business. This is what NEXA Insights offers.
“Nobody else is really providing customer surveys exclusively for financial advisors. It’s the only industry we work with. Our questions have been developed to deliver that so these [financial] firms can track and get a handle on what is becoming a vital part of their business.” — Jim
What helps NEXA stand out
Chris says that one of their largest competitors is SurveyMonkey. However, unlike this online survey tool, NEXA’s surveys are industry-specific. Its data visualization package and analytics dashboard are developed specifically for advisors.
The success of NEXA’s platform involves focusing on 3 key areas.
First, NEXA’s team works hard on the questions in surveys. People don’t want to spend 20–30 minutes filling out a survey. NEXA constructs industry-specific, tested, concise questions (15 – 20 is the recommended number) that enable clients to complete the survey in 3 – 5 minutes.
As the data is collected, NEXA thoroughly analyzes the information in order to provide valuable information to advisors.
The third part of NEXA’s success is visualization. Chris says that the company gets great feedback on its UX.
“Advisors and their staff love the visualization. They love the dashboard. It’s very intuitive. You can, drill down into the information from any level in order to see the details you need.” — Chris
Chris believes that these three pieces—meaningful survey, in-depth data analysis, and clear visualization—are what makes the platform stand out.
How NEXA helps advisors
Based on the information from surveys, NEXA calculates a net promoter score and shows how engaged the clients are with the advisor or advisory firm. Advisors can see more than just an overall score—they can see results and comments by individual client.
“[Advisors] may do really well with communication but their technology is scoring fairly low. So that’s an area that they work on.” — Jim
NEXA’s analytics also allow advisors to see segmented views of their clients. For example, the baby boomers are responding better than millennials, males respond differently than females, and there are also differences between people who have been with the service longer versus those who are newer.
This information enables advisors to address a particular area of their service.
“We’re big believers that this is something that firms should be doing on an annual basis. They should always track it so they can trend and see: Are we moving in the right direction on these areas we’re working on?” — Jim
NEXA also offers a specific scenario that concerns assets and asset categories at risk. Chris explains that a small group of clients may intend to move their assets to another firm, and advisors usually have no idea until it happens. Surveys can frequently predict this.
“And at that point, it’s usually just a matter of getting on a phone call, resolving the situation, and retaining those assets. It seems like every single survey we do, there’s more than enough retention game to pay for the entire survey.” — Chris
Chris says that most data NEXA uses involves simple participant information such as name, date of birth, and zip code.
“The data we require from an advisor is very CRM-centric. So integration with Salesforce is the first one we did right out of the box.” — Chris
Later, NEXA integrated with Orion, and today they are developing integrations with Redtail and others.
“Data coming from us is not something that an individual will get. We have the raw data feed, but if you pull the raw data out, you’re just going to get lost in the weeds. So [advisors] leverage our visualizations instead of trying to get the data and develop their own. We definitely give them the ability to import data, load various data points that they can then cross-reference for other things.” — Chris
Product management and software development
Chris has a technical background. He implements Agile methodology for software development. Product management is mostly based on client requests.
“We’re very flexible to any kind of industry shifts and things that [advisors] need. Obviously we have a long-term vision that we adhere to and ensure that anything that we’re doing specifically for a client is going to mold into that vision.” — Chris
The development team includes a project manager, a couple of developers, and an operations engineer. According to Chris, using a small team enables the company to develop quickly. NEXA releases updates every couple of weeks.
The team uses .Net for software development and SQL Server for its database. They use Microsoft tools for sentiment analysis on comments and for machine learning and natural language processing.
NEXA works hard on market acquisition, and they are constantly signing up more firms. The biggest challenge the company observes is the need to educate advisory firms on how surveys can improve their businesses.
“We’re introducing something new to them, even though they’re obviously familiar with surveying—they just don’t fully understand how can it benefit their business.” — Chris
NEXA also has an advisor-level survey that allows the large teams to get feedback and learn about platform users’ critical needs.
“We started taking advisor-level surveys and matching those with the client-level surveys that we’re doing and deriving analytics and different information for that.” — Chris
Chris says that a lot of advisory firms want to have a survey in onboarding, so NEXA plans to roll out a new onboarding survey later this year.
The bottom line
Surveys are frequently used by companies from all industries to improve client engagement. However, NEXA Insights decided to focus on one particular industry—wealth management—and make surveys that are meaningful and valuable for financial advisors. This is a great example of how a narrow focus becomes beneficial for business. Let’s wish the team best of luck as they rise to all challenges they’ll face, and we’ll be watching how the company evolves.