When YCharts debuted in 2009, the cloud-based financial portal billed itself as a potential threat to the Bloomberg Terminal's dominance over real-time market data.
Bloomberg remains a powerhouse eight years later, but YCharts, and other startups with similar products, have found success with financial advisers, a segment of financial services that traditionally eschewed high-priced finance terminals.
Sean Brown, who took over as CEO of YCharts after co-founder Shawn Carpenter stepped down in April 2016, said the company has grown 50% to 75% year-over-year for the past four years and now supports more than 3,000 users. Two-thirds of those users are wealth advisers, typically in the $50 million to $500 million AUM range.
Dynasty Financial Partners provides YCharts' data and visualizations through its Dynasty Desktop technology suite for breakaway advisers. Fidelity offers YCharts at a discounted rate to advisers through its practice management and consulting group, and Charles Schwab includes the technology on its Openview Market Square.
TD Ameritrade Institutional integrates YCharts with the Veo Open Access platform and plans to bring it to the next-generation Veo One platform sometime in 2018.
"When completed, we expect advisers will have single sign-on access to YCharts (they can toggle back and forth between applications) and [YCharts] can expose their research and marketing widgets to Veo One," said Joseph Giannone, TD Ameritrade Institutional spokesman, in an email.
Advisers on the TD system use YCharts for investment research, screening and charting, as well as a source for quotes, industry news and events, he said.
Sean Brown attributed the company's sustained growth to a shift away from trying to be a complete Bloomberg replacement, but the company is still looking to provide at least a partial replacement for some firms.
"We are capturing market share incrementally by coming into shops that have 10 terminals, and that for 60 or 70 percent of their users, that's great. But we find those two or three seats, those four seats, where they honestly don't need that solution," Sean Brown said.
He likes to compare YCharts to a Swiss Army knife, while the Bloomberg terminal is like an entire toolbox.
"We're finding the guys that need the Swiss Army knife and serving them," Sean Brown said.
Josh Brown, the CEO of Ritholtz Wealth Management, said YCharts is one of many market research tools the advisers at his firm uses, including a Bloomberg terminal. He said that while there may be some overlap on the margins, he doesn't really see them as competing products.
The Bloomberg terminal is necessary for traders at larger enterprise firms and hedge funds, and advisers wouldn't use enough of its functionality to make it worthwhile, he said. What advisers need is market data and a way to present information to clients. YCharts is one tool that can fill this roll, he said.
"Bloomberg is trying to sell enterprise licenses, not trying to penetrate the RIA space," Josh Brown said. "That creates an opportunity for someone to create something else."
Several startups have risen to offer slices of the Bloomberg terminal's functionality with less-expensive technology. Advisers looking for deeper research are turning to Sentieo, while FactSet remains popular among advisers looking for big data.
Morgan Downey, the CEO of Money.net, launched his product three-and-a-half years ago as a multi-asset class alternative. He sees Money.net as a more direct competitor to Bloomberg, complete with breaking news alerts and a studio in New York.
Mr. Downey wouldn't share specific user numbers, but he said Money.net has "thousands of paying customers" with at least 60% being financial advisers in the U.S.. LPL is one of its partners, he said. Even though advisers aren't doing active trading, they do need to be "actively aware of the market," Mr. Downey said.
"[Advisers] need to be aware of where a client's value is in a real-time basis, if they want to add value and proactively communicate with clients or prospects," Mr. Downey said.
Advisers like Josh Brown, however, are skeptical that these startups will really claw customers away from Bloomberg.
"I feel like people have been writing the epitaph for Bloomberg terminals for as long as I've been in the industry, but it's been a bad bet every time. I don't think anyone replaces Bloomberg," he said.
Bill Winterberg, the founder and president of consulting firm FPPad, said few of his RIA clients have terminals because investment management is just a small piece of their total service offering. YCharts does come up quite a bit for its charting capabilities and advisers are adding YCharts' data and illustrations to their client reports, Mr. Winterberg said.
"If they do reports on individual securities, they'll pull from YCharts," he said.
But many advisers, he said, get by just fine using Morningstar Office for analyses on ETFs and mutual funds, or even free websites like Finviz.com or Yahoo Finance.