How a Product-Centric Approach Fuels Growth, Humanizes Experiences and Personalizes Service at Scale

By Aniket Gune, Chief Product Officer, SmartAsset

Every company defines success differently, but most can agree that a foundation of deeply engaged customers and a diverse product suite can ensure growth and longevity. For product-centric companies – that is, those that are focused on solving a customer need and developing solutions that continually deliver value to customers – a unique product suite is typically a key driver that keeps companies top-of-mind.

That being said, product-centric companies measure success on their ability to solve problems and develop solutions that continually deliver value to customers. It’s fairly easy to solve one problem for one customer, but what about when a company has millions of customers? How can a product-centric company offer personalized solutions and humanize experiences at scale?

Before I dive into the details, let me tell you a little bit about SmartAsset, our product-centric approach and how the company and its products have evolved over time.

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The Evolution of SmartAsset

In 2012, SmartAsset – a Y Combinator-backed startup – was solely focused on building and serving interactive tools to help with the homebuying process. According to a 2012 TechCrunch article, “When users come to SmartAsset, they enter their basic financial information, then interact with a number of calculators and charts that help them understand the financial implications of their homebuying choices.” The reporter, Anthony Ha, actually showcased one of SmartAsset’s first interactive products: the “How Much Can I Borrow?” calculator.

SmartAsset started with one unwavering mission, a handful of products focused on homebuying and around 10,000 users. As you can imagine, SmartAsset’s product suite has dramatically evolved over time. Today, SmartAsset’s mission remains the same – to help people make smarter financial decisions – but the company is now valued at just over $1 billion, reaches roughly 75 million consumers monthly and offers dozens of free tools and calculators to help consumers navigate life’s big personal financial decisions.

SmartAsset grew its massive consumer audience by providing financial advice via free content, tools and calculators. However, after years of building and serving dozens of such tools, SmartAsset realized that to truly fulfill its mission, it needed to help its customers with the bigger financial decisions that are best informed by professional help.

Therefore, SmartAsset leveraged the marketability of its massive audience towards serving an underserved market: financial advisor client acquisition. With millions of people seeing and interacting with SmartAsset’s free tools, calculators and content each month, the company found an opportunity to expand its mission of helping people make smart financial decisions by connecting them to financial advisors across America.

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This newly minted product-centric fintech unicorn places all of its focus on solving customer needs centered around financial advice, with an unchanged, unwavering and unified mission of helping people make smart financial decisions. So, you may be asking yourself: How did that happen? How did SmartAsset scale? How did SmartAsset’s products evolve over time?

SmartAsset’s Product Centricity

SmartAsset has always been a product-first company, and that approach has helped the company advance its mission. The company has evolved from offering personal finance tools and content only on the website, to creating the Captivate platform – which allows third-party media publishers to host and embed SmartAsset’s unique product suite and tools in relevant online content – to developing the SmartAdvisor platform – which is a national marketplace connecting consumers to financial advisors.

Product-centric organizations should focus on areas where there is scope to innovate digital initiatives, such as supporting a new business model. A great example of this is SmartAsset’s launch of SmartAdvisor in 2018 (as mentioned above). Our product suite needed to support a burgeoning marketplace with strategic iterations that complimented and drove growth. In fact, the company’s success depends on the investors’ and advisors’ success.

For investors:

  • Investors overcome fear, greed and uncertainty when they have perspective with their money. Oftentimes, investors fall victim to cycles of financial volatility that cause suboptimal financial decisions that can potentially thwart wealth accumulation. A trusted financial advisor allows much needed perspective that enhances the chances of an earlier and successful retirement.

For financial advisors:

  • Advisors are seeking out effective business growth opportunities in an increasingly competitive industry. They are looking to save time and effort by seamlessly finding investor prospects, winning their trust, and growing their business through new clients, which, in turn, results in increased Assets Under Management (AUM).

Product-centric approaches make it easier to rapidly innovate and iterate because it focuses on customer experience, evolving requirements, and the strategic differentiation for a product or service. The key is to demonstrate clear value of SmartAsset’s products and service to continually deliver value to both sides of the marketplace: investors and advisors.

Product Strategy & Value Creation

Value is created through a clear product strategy that continually solves customer pain points.

  • Inspire trust by educating investors about the financial benefits of working with a financial advisor, as there’s a large gap in sentiment of investors with an advisor and those without one.
  • Continually improving the matching algorithms to find financial advisor matches based on the investor’s location and/or desire to work with an advisor remotely, as well as the stated amount of investable assets.
  • Humanize experiences by creating and equipping internal teams with the latest best-in-class tools so that they can handhold consumers and ensure seamless marketplace connections between investors and advisors (i.e. Live Connections).
  • Empower customers with exemplary service, relevant tools and clear reporting that minimizes their time and effort and maximizes ROI.

When a company places its focus on solving customer needs and continually delivering value to them, that naturally leads to an evolving product suite, an innovative service model and market scaling potential. SmartAsset puts personalized interactivity at the center of its products with the goal of building long-term relationships with customers. The company involves numerous engineers and designers throughout the product development process to create an intuitive and elegant experience that efficiently addresses its customers’ needs. SmartAsset designs its products to provide its customers with relevant, accessible information and advice when they’re actively searching for it. This creates enduring long-term relationships that resonates with customers.

Smart with heart is our mantra and we continually strive to personalize and humanize experiences for our customers. Today, financial health and wellness is a fundamental human need and SmartAsset is leading the charge with its unwavering mission to help people make smarter financial decisions.

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About SmartAsset

SmartAsset is an online destination for consumer-focused financial information and advice that powers SmartAdvisor, a national marketplace connecting consumers to financial advisors. Reaching approximately 75 million people each month (as of Sept. 2021) through its educational content and personalized calculators and tools, SmartAsset’s mission is to help people make smart financial decisions. Ranked on the Inc. 5000 and Deloitte Technology Fast 500™ lists of fastest growing companies in 2021, SmartAsset closed a $110 million Series D round, valuing the company at over $1 billion. SmartAsset was also named to Y Combinator’s list of Top 100 Companies of all time and Forbes’ list of America’s Best Startup Employers in 2020. For more information, please visit SmartAsset.com.

 

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