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YCharts: Data Research Platform for the Modern Advisor

Site: ycharts.com
Founded: 2009
Clients: Financial advisors, RIAs, wealth managers, asset managers
Value proposition: Cloud-based investment tools
The executive team: Sean Brown, President and Chief Executive Officer
Ara Anjargolian, Cofounder and Chief Technology Officer
Caleb Eplett, Vice President of Product Management

 

YCharts is a FinTech company that provides cloud-based investment tools, including stock charts and ratings, as well as economic indicators. YCharts offers unique data streams and features that visually communicate unique insights.

Vasyl Soloshchuk and Caleb Eplett
Vasyl Soloshchuk and Caleb Eplett

I had the pleasure of speaking with three YCharts representatives to learn how their services and offerings differ from the competition and how they have built a strong technical foundation for future endeavors.

Ara Anjargolian received a BS in electric engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkeley. Ara worked as a lead engineer for Tribune Interactive (ForSaleByOwner.com), where he led the development of a real estate platform. During his time at Tribune, he met Shawn Carpenter, with whom he would eventually found YCharts in 2009.

Sean Brown has worked in various roles in the software and financial services industries. Prior to joining YCharts in 2006, Sean Brown led a division at ICE Data Services (formerly Interactive Data) called 7ticks, which was an IaaS provider for low-latency trading networks and software.

Caleb Eplett has worked in finance for over ten years. He started his career as a financial advisor at Ameriprise and then worked as a trader for a firm based in Chicago. Caleb came to YCharts in 2012, initially as an account manager. Over the past seven years he has worked his way up to vice president of product management, a role that combines managing the product and development teams.

YCharts in a nutshell

Like the name of the company implies, YCharts has a lot of charts. Caleb says the company covers any series you can think of, from simple things like stock prices, to calculations on financial and economic data. The YCharts tools allow users to pull data into the same chart to look at different data variations based on historical data and percentage changes over time.

Apart from charts, the company has other visualization tools such as tables. Traditionally, to look at data, advisors would have to filter and sort everything and export it to Excel. However, YCharts has a cloud-based web tool that can display and aggregate data from different companies and fiscal calendars.

Price and PE_FCF Comp

Sean says using the tools is fairly straightforward. If a wealth advisor or asset manager is looking to create a newsletter or a presentation for a prospect or client meeting, they can use YCharts to show trends and performances to bring insights into their message.

“It can be as simple as—let me show you how your portfolio has performed in relation to an index. From an asset management standpoint, it can show a client’s funds or model portfolios compared to alternative investment opportunities.” – Sean

What kind of analytics and insights can YCharts provide?

Advisors can find prices for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds fairly easily. Beyond that, you would be hard-pressed to find additional data, let alone be able to aggregate the data for analysis. Something Ara and his founding partner decided to do from day one was to get the data, mix and match them, combine them, and create three layers of data analysis:

  1. Data aggregation with mirroring so advisors can access it
  2. 4,000 continuous calculations on top of the aggregated data
  3. Pre-built screens and pages for visualizing the data in the form of charts and tables

“A picture is worth 1,000 words. If you, the user, want to derive your own insights, and you want to derive that by seeing how a couple things chart together or laying them together in tables and seeing some side-by-side, some comparable analyses, you’ve got some easy tools to do your own analytics to derive some insights.” – Sean

YCharts performance tab

One of YCharts’s strongest assets is that it can correlate any data point. Caleb describes one side of the use cases as tracking economic indicators to see which ones are lagging. These lagging indicators can provide insights into market cycles and can help advisors prepare portfolios better or tactically shift away from particular assets. Additionally, when advisors sit down with their clients in person or send them email updates, insights into market fluctuations go deeper than just “investments are up by x%.”

“With YCharts, advisors can show clients how they have an eye on the economy, and that doesn’t just mean what the market did last quarter, and whether your investments are up 5% or 6%. It’s, ‘Hey, here’s what we’re seeing as far as trends in home values or home ownership, and here’s some trends in where debt is moving, and how student loan debt is actually overcoming credit card debt as something that we’re thinking about.’” – Caleb

Engineering methodology and technology stack

YCarts software developerAccording to Ara, development follows a “light” agile process and tracks tasks using Pivotal Tracker. Most ideas for new projects come from Caleb, the sales and customer service teams, and market research. These suggestions are vetted to measure their impact and are then turned into requirement documents. Caleb says the team releases new features every week, whether client-facing or general software improvements.

YCharts is hosted on Amazon Web Services. The back end is written in Python and uses a Django codebase. The YCharts front end is written in JavaScript, with several frameworks like Highcharts that power the visualization tools.

“The whole stack, the way we deploy code, there are artifacts that are generated. Those artifacts are instantiated in AWS. And they can scale up and scale down based on the need or time.” – Ara

Data sources and integration partners

Caleb explains that the primary data provider for YCharts is Morningstar, which provides mutual fund, equity, and underlying data. Estimates and equity data are provided by Capital IQ and SMP. The rest of the data used by YCharts are sourced by various providers, and Caleb says YCharts has its own database, with economic data that have over a quarter million different economic indicator time series. The economic data come from government sources such as the Census Bureau.

YCharts Excel MP Template

As for active integrations, YCharts is deeply integrated with TD Ameritrade’s Veo and Veo One. Additionally, the company has ties with Schwab and plans to integrate portfolio management tools.

“We think data is a commodity. And so, we think there’s a lot of good sources for data out there, whether it’s third parties or us cultivating the data ourselves. Where we think we really make a difference is personality, the software-based, cloud-based personality we give to that data to make it insightful, usable, create pictures, create understanding, communicate insights.” – Sean

Biggest challenges in the coming future

The greatest challenge for YCharts has been the same since its founding in 2009—staying focused on the thing that’s most important to the customer base over the long term. Sean says there is always an urge to delve into other areas that may provide short-term gains; however, he adds that these gains generally do not serve the right long-term interests. YCharts focuses on serving its clients, which consist of wealth advisors and asset managers.

“Our challenge is their [advisors] life is changing. Their world is changing. And how can we be two steps ahead of them to make sure we’re more than ready when they’ve decided on a strategy that works for them?” – Sean

YCharts team work YCharts office
WealthTech Club takeaways

Websites like Yahoo Finance and Seeking Alpha use YCharts to visualize all sorts of data in charts and tables. The YCharts team has dedicated itself to providing a data-rich platform for advisors, and the team is continuing to improve and refine the platform to make it appealing for advisors of every caliber.

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