Sean Brown, CEO of YCharts.

The last time we wrote about Y Charts, the investment research and presentation software company, was when it added cryptocurrency pricing data to its platform, but since then the company has continued to grow, adding features, integrations and board members along the way.

On Oct. 18, the company announced its newest product enhancement, which allows its advisor users to compare model portfolios on its platform. The upgrade is free to existing subscribers of YCharts.

Sean Brown, CEO of YCharts, reported in an Oct. 8 interview that it now has more than 4,000 professional clients, mostly wealth advisory firms, and said the model portfolio upgrade was long desired by those users.

Among its recent business events was signing a partnership with Shirl Penney’s Dynasty Financial Partners, so “every breakaway that signs up with Dynasty, their research tool is YCharts,” said Brown.

“We develop our product roadmap for wealth advisors,” said Brown, reflected in two other recent developments.

The first is its integration into TD Ameritrade Institutional’s Veo platform; Brown hinted that another major custodial partnership may be announced soon.

Second, its users have told YCharts that they wanted a tool that would keep them abreast of developments in the market or with individual securities or companies in the screens they had created in YCharts. Thus the addition of custom email reports, which provides targeted information that advisor user previously indicated they were tracking on behalf of clients.

Forest, Not the Trees

The new model portfolios feature, which Caleb Eplett, VP of product management at YCharts, said had been the most requested feature among YCharts users, is an instance of allowing users and their clients to view the investment forest rather than the individual security trees. “YCharts is a wonderful tool to find, develop, and manage” specific investments, Eplett said, but users had asked for the ability to incorporate those specific investments into portfolios. Using YCharts’ integration with Excel, advisors can now create visuals showing the benefits or drawbacks of adding specific securities to the portfolio. Users can show how that portfolio will perform over time and also how it will be affected by changes in a broad range of economic indicators or interest rates.

YCharts, Brown said, has been “a place to go to research individual publicly listed securities,” but wealth advisors said “I make my own securities” by combining public securities into model portfolios, so they asked “Why can’t I show to prospects and clients” how those home-grown ‘securities’ benefit the clients using YCharts’ display expertise?

Feedback from beta users of the model portfolio feature is that the enhancement not only answers that user request, but is also an efficient tool to attract new clients, said Brown. There’s a benefit to existing clients as well. Being able to show to clients how adding specific securities can generate higher returns in their portfolios provides a “sense of comfort” to those clients.

Moreover, since YCharts is web-based, advisors can perform those comparisons and projections on any device that has an internet connection, meaning they’re not tied to a desktop terminal.

A Bloomberg Alternative?

Who are the users of YCharts? “Our sweet spot is RIAs in the $250 million to $750 million” in AUM range, according to Brown, often breakaway brokers within the first 18 months of independence who “really need a research platform.” Cheaper platforms “don’t do it for them,” but they also “don’t have $20,000 a seat for the biggest players,” a reference to research platforms like Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters or S&P.

However, by gaining credibility through deals with more institutional firms like Dynasty, Brown says “we’re taking on the larger players lately,” with enterprises responding to the suggestion that they should be “replacing some of your Bloomberg terminals” with YCharts subscriptions rather than discarding their Bloombergs all at once. Brown calls the strategy “Trojan horsing” into larger organizations; he says YCharts is in “late-stage trials with some very large entities.”

But YCharts’ target user isn’t defined by size, concludes Brown. Rather, it’s “individuals and entities who believe in active investing,” even if they’re mostly using passive vehicles to achieve returns.