Michael Carvin is the Founder and CEO of SmartAsset. Michael's expertise is in financial decision making. In the pre-SmartAsset days, Michael worked in private equity. He spent his time using financial models to help companies understand how to make better decisions. Michael believed the same models could help people improve their personal finance decision making, so he developed the patent-pending system that serves as the foundation for SmartAsset. Michael is a graduate of Princeton University.
1. Tell us about your role at SmartAsset?
My name is Michael Carvin; I’m the Founder and CEO of SmartAsset, which is a financial technology company that helps more than 65 million people each month make smart financial decisions. We publish data-driven content, topical guides, reviews, personalized calculators and educational tools to help people navigate life’s big personal finance decisions. Additionally, we operate SmartAdvisor, which is the leading independent client acquisition platform for financial advisors.
Everyday is different for me, but I manage the day-to-day operations for the company and lead the development of our short- and long-term business strategy. I advise the executive team on business decisions that support the company’s mission, vision and revenue goals.
2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
When I was in the market for a house, I found it extremely difficult to find useful mortgage information online. The content was inaccurate, hard to understand and generally unhelpful…and I worked in finance! That was my ‘ah-ha’ moment. I imagined how people – who were unfamiliar with financial jargon – felt while navigating personal finance decisions. So I quit my job to start SmartAsset. A year later, we were accepted into the exclusive Y Combinator startup accelerator program. Today SmartAsset is one of the largest sources of personal finance information and advice on the web, and an award-winning financial technology company with 138 employees and $51 million in funding. In fact, Forbes recently named SmartAsset as one of “America’s Best Startup Employers in 2020” based on an analysis of more than seven million data points in the areas of employee satisfaction, employer reputation and company growth.
3. How do you think technology is upgrading the financial sector? How has digitization empowered the personal financial decision making process?
Within the wealth management sector, any service or technology that improves a financial advisor’s ability to work and communicate with current and prospective consumers will have the greatest impact.
The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated advisors’ adoption of video conferencing to connect with clients, but we’ve also seen an increase in consumer interest for financial advisors. Due to the extreme market volatility that we’re currently experiencing, we’ve seen a surge of interest for consumers looking for financial advisors. That said, our SmartAdvisor marketplace is well-positioned to meet the demands of both sides of the business: consumers looking for financial advice and financial advisors looking to grow their business.
In April 2020, we launched an extension of its SmartAdvisor platform called ‘Live Connections’, which is a new service for delivering high-intent, validated consumer prospects via a warm phone transfer to fiduciary financial advisors and advisory firms that meets today’s on-demand expectations.
Leading trade and fintech publications, including Finovate, Wealth Management and Financial Advisor Magazine have taken notice of Live Connections and its impact, referencing it as a “valuable resource for financial managers as well as their customers and clients” and “a game-changer for the industry.” However, at its core: it’s a solution that transforms our reach and ability to help people make smart financial decisions.
4. How do your calculators help consumers? How does your platform help people prepare for retirement?
Our mission is to help people make smart personal financial decisions. Consumers have lots of personal finance questions and we provide answers in the form of editorial articles, topical guides and personalized calculators to help them make informed decisions. Plus when a consumer expresses interest in speaking with a financial advisor, we facilitate that connection instantly via Live Connections on our SmartAdvisor platform.
5. What advice do you have for other technology start ups?
One of our core values is “Rise & Adapt.” I cannot stress enough how important it is for a startup to be flexible in responding to challenges.
A startup is certainly going to be a rollercoaster ride, and challenges will be prevalent throughout. Mike Tyson’s quote couldn’t be more relevant, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” For other startups and founders, it may feel like you’re getting punched in the mouth too often, but you need the ability to adapt quickly in your pursuit of success.
6. What are the major developments you are planning, in recent time?
As mentioned, we recently launched ‘Live Connections’ that allows financial advisors to connect directly with prospective clients over the phone in real time. The service is available to all certified Financial Advisors, Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) and Advisory firms across the U.S. exclusively on SmartAsset’s SmartAdvisor platform.
7. What movie inspires you the most?
8. We have heard that you have a very joyful work culture, so can you share with us some of the fun pictures of your workplace?
9. What apps on your smartphone do you constantly use?
Slack, Todoist, Google Analytics