Amongst the many challenges of being a fully functioning adult, responsibly managing finances is one of the most confounding. From choosing the right credit card to understanding what the heck a 401(k) truly is, personal finance can be a daunting and complicated struggle.
NerdWallet, however aims to change this. Tim Chen, NerdWallet’s founder and CEO founded the company with the idea to simplify the financial process through empowering the consumer with information. NerdWallet is now both a thriving and well known company which Chen attributes to always thinking “consumer first.”
The millennial struggle of #adulting is driven a great part through the generation not having a firm understanding of finances. How does NerdWallet play into this discourse and thrive because of it?
NerdWallet is a personal finance resource with a mission to provide clarity to consumers across all of life’s financial decisions. The majority of people, including millennials, make financial decisions in the dark so we want to provide consumers with expert, honest and personalized information to empower them to make the best possible decisions- everything from selecting a credit card, mortgage lender to how to save and invest. We understand that consumers struggle to get good financial advice because they either turn to friends and family who are well intentioned but not well informed; or financial advisors that don’t always have the consumer's’ best interest in mind. So we aim to be transparent and help consumers understand the massive amount of financial information that is thrown at them by taking complex and sometimes complicated information and simplifying it into an easy-to-understand way through our content and free tools.
Is NerdWallet’s primary demographic millennials and if so, what is the primary way they’re reached?
NerdWallet aims to reach any and every consumer that has a financial question and a decision at hand. Being a financial tech company, we do attract millennials who are looking for objective answers and guidance quickly and on-the-go. We’ve made it possible for consumers to interact with us online through our content, interactive free tools and availability to chat with our readily available advisors.
How did your own experiences influence the inception of NerdWallet and how have these continued to impact the brand as it’s grown into what it is today?
I have always had a passion for entrepreneurship and technology since I was a teen, but in 2000 when I started college, the tech bubble burst, my career plans at the time shifted, and I discovered a new focus in finance. I started my career in finance as an equity research analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston, then as a hedge fund analyst at Perry Capital.
The inspiration for NerdWallet spurred when my sister, Kim –another Internet entrepreneur- asked for my help in finding a credit card at the same time my parents were put into a mutual fund, which was full of hard-to-understand terms. It took me (a trained financial professional) over a week to make a recommendation after spending weeks researching available financial products and seeing firsthand how many complicated financial products were out there vying for consumer mindshare with no regards to consumers’ well-being. That’s when I realized how much of a barrier the complexity of information out there is for consumers. I put all of the credit card information into a spreadsheet and from there NerdWallet’s first credit cards tool was built in 2009. We saw the clarity we could provide with credit cards, which got us thinking about all the other financial decisions consumers have to face. Today, NerdWallet spans across 11 personal finance topics (Credit Cards, Banking, Investing, Mortgages, Household Spending, Education, Personal Loans, Life, Health and Auto Insurance, SMB, Taxes and Estate Planning) and has grown from 50 employees to more than 400.
Not being influenced by outside parties is NerdWallet’s driving narrative. How do you perpetuate to your users that this is legitimate and ensure this is never compromised?
We are a consumer-first company. That’s ingrained in everything we do and that’s the fundamental reason we are here today. We want to provide clarity on all of life’s financial decisions. Establishing trust with our users is pivotal to us achieving our mission, and we do that by telling the truth and providing our honest and expert advice for any financial decision. In order to provide recommendations, we review financial offerings in the market and we abide by our strict standards to ensure our partnerships with financial institutions have no impact on our objective reviews and consumer recommendations.
What plans do you have to continue to expand and scale NerdWallet as it continues on this path to success?
We take pride in helping consumers make informed financial decisions based on the expert, honest advice and objective information we provide. We will continue to empower consumers and provide clarity on complicated financial decisions to help them change the way they think about their finances. We’ll continue to invest heavily in hiring top talent and investing in product, design and engineering to develop and introduce new products and tools as well as expand our expertise in areas where consumers need the most help.
What advice would you offer early stage founders creating a company with altruistic intent who are also keen on scaling and making money?
A good CEO is always thinking ahead about the next phase of growth and figuring out ways to have the right conversations, learning from others and being prepared for what’s to come. It’s about accepting the challenges and failures and learning from them quickly and evolving together. I strongly believe hiring the right talent and cultivating a positive and engaging culture is a big part of a company’s success.
Another vital component, is communication. From my experience, you have to figure out the best way to communicate with a growing and changing team of 5, 50 or even 500.