Aaron Klein is the Co-founder and CEO of Nitrogen, a growth platform for wealth management firms. He has led the company to twice being named one of the world’s top 10 most innovative companies in finance by Fast Company Magazine.
Aaron is also the Co-founder of Hope Takes Root, an initiative to use vocational training and life mentoring to change the future for orphans and at-risk kids in Ethiopia. He is an Investment News honoree of the industry’s top 40 Under 40 executives.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
Aaron Klein talks about Nitrogen and how it helps people
Tips for the success of financial advisors
Mistakes financial advisors make and how to overcome them
Aaron discusses risk numbers and how it helps advisors
The journey of building Nitrogen
Nitrogen’s rebrand process from Riskalyze
In this episode…
Do you want to transform a hesitant investor into a capable one that makes remarkable decisions? How can you do so as a financial advisor?
The wealth management industry is one of the most challenging industries to be in. Optimal returns are held back from a fear of losing their money. According to Aaron Klein, great financial advisors need clients willing to make bold decisions to create long-term financial outcomes. Learn how to turn your clients into gutsy investors as a financial advisor.
In this episode of The Customer Wins, Richard Walker sits down with Aaron Klein, Co-founder and CEO of Nitrogen, to discuss how he helps wealth management firms succeed. Aaron talks about Nitrogen and how it helps people, the challenges and mistakes financial advisors make and how to overcome them, and the journey of building Nitrogen and the rebrand.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
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Welcome to The Customer Wins podcast where business leaders discuss their secrets and techniques for helping their customers succeed and in turn grow their business
Richard Walker 0:16
Hi, I'm Rich Walker, the host of The Customer Wins, where I talk to business leaders about how they help their customers win and how their focus on customer experience leads to growth. Some of our past guests have included Jud Mackrill of Milemarker and Adam Holt of AssetMap. Today I get to speak with Aaron Klein CEO of Nitrogen, and today's episode is brought to you by Quik! the leader in enterprise forms automation, when the last step to earn your clients business requires filling out paperwork, don't ruin a good relationship with a bad experience. Instead, get Quik! to make filling out forms a great experience and the easiest part of your transaction, visit quikforms.com to get started. Now before I introduce today's guest, I have to give a big thank you to Derek Notman, the founder of Couplr, who also was a guest on this show go check out Derek's website at couplr.ai to see how they do financial matchmaking, or just watch his episode to hear more. Now I'm really excited to introduce Aaron Klein, the CEO of Nitrogen. Because Aaron co-founded Riskalyze, which has become Nitrogen in 2011, growing the company has served 10s of 1000s of financial advisors and twice being named as one of the world's top 10 most innovative companies and financed by Fast Company magazine's one of my favorite magazines by the way. He also co-founded Hope Takes Root and initiative to serve orphans and vulnerable kids in Ethiopia. And he serves on the board of invest in others an organization that supports financial advisors who give back to their communities. Investment News is honored him as one of the industry's top 40 under 40 executives. And as I mentioned, Aaron recently led Riskalyze through the evolution of their company to rename it Nitrogen. Aaron, welcome to The Customer Wins.
Aaron Klein 1:58
Thanks so much. Thanks for having me. Super excited to be here.
Richard Walker 2:01
Yeah, I'm excited to talk to you too. Now, if you haven't heard this podcast before, I talked with business leaders about what they're doing to help their customers win, how they built and deliver a great customer experience and the challenges to growing their own company. So Aaron, I want to understand your business a little bit better. How does your company help people?
Aaron Klein 2:20
Sure, absolutely. Well, Nitrogen was founded, and it was originally founded as Riskalyze it's absolutely true. I'm sure we'll talk a little bit about that. But Nitrogen was founded back in 2011, with a mission to empower the world to invest fearlessly. I had done some work in at the intersection of finance and technology, my co-founder was a financial advisor. And we were just both kind of blown away by how broken investing felt to the average person. It just felt like this black box, they didn't really understand they put money in they didn't understand why they got money out whether it was more money or less money out the other end. And we just felt like, there got to be some great ways to demystify that, and create a better experience real and what's so interesting is that humans have this tendency to be more averse to loss about two and a half times more averse to loss than they are focused on the opportunity for gain. And that drives really strange behavior on the part of human beings. When it comes to their investing, we human beings have an absolutely phenomenal ability to sabotage their own investing. And it's because when we see green we want to buy when we see red, we want to sell like this is just kind of innate in us. And of course, that literally means that we were buying at the high and selling at the low. So rinse and repeat for 30 years, and you will definitely be broke. So we just saw that and said like, there's got to be a better way to empower the world to invest fearlessly, if we if we can really understand who people are, and match them up with an investment portfolio that actually fits who they are, then that is just transformative. And it's going to transform a fearful investor who makes bad decisions into a fearless investor who really makes great decisions. And ultimately, what every great financial advisor needs are clients that are willing to make good fearless decisions, because that's ultimately what financial advisors use to create that long term financial outcome. So that was the core of how the company was founded. And then the first thing that we invented was this thing called the Risk Number, where an advisor could take a client through a risk questionnaire, understand who they were, as a client, say, hey, Rich, you know, based on your answers here, your risk 44 Looks like a speed limit sign on a scale of one to 99 very intuitive, very easy to understand. You're like, yeah, that feels like me. I don't want to speed 90 miles an hour down the freeway. I'd like my portfolio to drive at about 44. Okay, great. Hey, Rich, like we should probably take a look at how your current portfolio is actually invested and then something like a 88% of the time, your current portfolio would have more risk than you wanted or realized. And your portfolio would come back as like a risk 92. And all of a sudden, you're sitting there in front of that financial advisor going, I get it, all of a sudden I get it, I understand why I feel so nervous about what's going on. I'm not in alignment with my portfolio. Now, there's a lot more complexity than that, obviously, a financial adviser also has to look at how much risk you need to take in order to reach your goals, that's risk capacity, they need to think about a variety of different factors. But at the end of the day, like it's a very powerful, it was a very powerful tool, when we rolled that out in 2013, for an advisor to very quickly level set with a client and go, I see the mismatch. And over time, like we rolled that out, you know, we basically named the company after it, right. And then we embarked on this decade of building the growth platform for wealth management firms. Because we build the tools to measure risk capacity, we built the tools to really work through stress, testing a portfolio, and doing deep portfolio analytics and proposals and investment policy statements and all those kinds of things. And so, all that to say, today, we are working on behalf of financial advisory firms to drive pretty much a simple process. If you think about it, it's very complex. But I'm going to make it as simple as possible. We take somebody's leads, which maybe they get from, they're not even a Couplr as an example, okay, but maybe they get them from a snappy Kraken or an FMG, or maybe they get referrals or whatever we help people take their leads, we help them accelerate those leads into meetings, and then turn those meetings into valued clients, and then turn those clients into referral champions for their firm. And of course, what comes out the other end, they're assets that flow over into their asset platform, whatever asset platform they use. And of course, all of this gets dutifully logged in their CRM as their system of record for people along the way. And that's kind of the ecosystem that we've built as the growth platform for wealth management firms.
Richard Walker 7:08
And you guys are doing quite a bit and you reminded me of a story. I was reading about an article where a journalist was put in bedded in with a bunch of soldiers on the ground. And when the firefighting started, the soldiers ran towards the firefight, and the journalists, like I want to run away from this firefight. You're talking about this, like the adviser needs to run towards the market when it's going red, right? Yeah. And so I liked this alignment, because my wife and I are very different. I don't know if you knew I was a financial advisor. Okay. Didn't know that. Yeah. And so my aversion to risk was a lot different than my wife, who loves and loves to save. So I'm wondering, when you sit down with clients, do they get two different numbers? How do you blend that together? How do you teach them to run towards the fire?
Aaron Klein 7:51
Well, first of all, I love the analogy that you just created there, because running towards the fire is what financial advisors have got to do. And for some reason, financial advisors have been trained that there are two things that you never talk about with your clients. And it's not religion and politics, its risk in the short term, right. And the problem is, is that human beings react to risk in the short term, that's literally what they do. So these things that the financial advisors like, we don't want to talk too much about risk, we don't want to talk about the short term, like keep them long term focused, and blah, blah, blah, and like, we're going to be fine, we're gonna have all this great return over the long term, okay? That is counterproductive to the financial advisors success, because inevitably, difficulties in the market, points of volatility are going to arrive in the market, and it's going to undermine your entire message and undermine your credibility as a financial advisor with what you do for your clients. So you're absolutely right, financial advisors have got to run towards that fire in different ways. We have built the ability for advisors to send out multiple questionnaire, so you can do multiple opinions there. And you can send one to each spouse. And, and you know, and what's super fascinating is that sometimes they'll come back. And by the way, these often defy gender stereotypes. So like, I've seen, in fact, the average female answering a risk questionnaire on our platform, this is a little bit of guesswork, because we're using name matching to try to estimate it. But if names had a gender meeting, okay, we actually found that the average female on our platform was about six or seven for a risk numbers higher than the average male answered. I was a little bit surprised, too. Because the stereotype like falls apart, you know, when you kind of put some data to it, but all that to say, you can come back and one spouse is a 29, and the other spouse is a 72. And it's a great opportunity for the financial advisors saying Now listen, I'm a financial advisor, I'm not a marriage counselor. We're gonna need to have a conversation about this and we either need to, you know, Think about managing your different, you know, IRAs differently or something like that, or we need to kind of compromise here and decide what kind of target. And by the way, this is where risk capacity can really come into play. Because if it turns out that one spouse is 24, and the other 72, and our risk capacity tells us that we kind of need to be invested like a 55, we might be able to use that as a driver towards compromise for two spouses and say, okay, I can get the spouses risk 24 says I can get comfortable with that portfolio because I get that we need to do it in order to reach our goals. And the spouse who's 72 says, okay, that's great. We don't take as much risk as I thought we needed to in order to reach our goals. Like, let's go for it.
Richard Walker 10:44
I think one of the important things you're saying though, is that, maybe you attended this or not, you're getting these people to talk more, and getting them to articulate more of what their fear is, what their challenges are, what their goals are. Right. And that's one of the biggest challenges financial advisor faces is getting people to actually talk.
Aaron Klein 11:01
Totally right. I'm sure you've probably heard this before. There's just thing, few different people have written about it. One of my favorite books on the subject is Donald Miller's book about storytelling. Have you heard of Build Your StoryBrand? Yeah. And so like, the storytelling framework is renowned, because basically, the idea here is like, we always want to make ourselves the hero of the story. And financial advisors are not the hero of the story. They've got to be the hero. That's right there. Yeah, exactly. They're Obi Wan Kenobi, or Yoda or, you know, whichever character they're that is the guide to kind of helping the client kind of get to the other side. And the challenge is, is so many financial advisors see themselves as the hero of the story, because after all, the client is coming to them saying, can you use your expertise to help me get to a better place, and there's incredibly noble work that financial advisors are doing to help empower millions of people to actually help their grandkids, go to college and retire with security and dignity and, and create like, life changing nonprofit work out there, that would not happen without the work of financial advisors. So they're heroes in my book, but they can't make themselves the hero of the story. Because if you're the hero of the story, and you look around, you say, where's my client? Guess what, your client is sitting on the couch eating popcorn? Okay? They're sitting there asking, Is this an entertaining story right now or not? And when the market gets volatile, all of a sudden, that's not an entertaining story anymore, and they want to turn you off. Okay? So it's so critically important to make the client be the hero of the story, and you put yourself into the role of guide. And I would argue that creating those conversations in that buy in on these decisions is the critical way that you're making the client, the hero of the story, when the client is said, yes, I agree we should manage this like a risk. 55. Okay, great. Now let's talk about that. Now, if you look at this portfolio, or risk 55 portfolio, like the one you're talking about, this would be normal behavior for this portfolio in six months from now, it could be down X percent, it could be up y percent, that would be normal. Okay. Are you okay with that? Because I'm looking over at the spouse who's 24. And I'm like, that's more risk than you're typically comfortable with. Okay, yeah. Promise me that. If we agree to do a 55, you're not going to run in say, sell, sell, sell, as soon as we go to the red number here, because it's gonna happen. And then I'll give you one worst, there's 5% of the risk we can't quantify for you. That's things like pandemics and inflation crashes. I mean, we've had so many of them in the 2020s. already. It's not even funny. Right? But like, I'm gonna, I'm going to pull up the Nitrogen stress test. And I'm going to show you right here that, you know, like, this is the kind of risk you have and like a 5% probability, but if your portfolio was to relive the 2022, inflation crash, or the 2008 financial crisis, so these are the conversations we have to have so that clients can be bought into the process and say, yeah, I made that decision, I understood the balance between risk and reward. I took that risk and my financial advisors helping me navigate through this set of decisions that I own.
Richard Walker 14:07
Yeah, that is so powerful. And one of the questions I want to ask is, you know, how you're helping your customers win, but it's so obvious. You're helping your advisors have better communication and conversations. And often I've thought of financial advisement as 95% Psychology, because what do you do when the markets up or down? And how do you treat people's reactions to it, right? Yeah. And what you've done is you've given them a number, you've kind of boiled it down and distilled it to this fine point where they can categorize themselves. Yeah. You know, actually, one of the ways to get through to toddlers, is to label things. It's the same thing that negotiation to you. labeler. Yeah, like your number helps clients label their fear label their acceptance of risk.
Aaron Klein 14:51
No, I think that's absolutely right. And one thing I've told many financial advisors, you know, we don't ever tell financial advisors what they should advise their clients. We just help their clients see and understand the things that financial advisors have been telling them for years. Right? And so that's exactly right. Because it creates a language that allows the person to say, well listen, like, I would be really nervous. I see what you're saying here, that particular example that we were just saying, the 24, the spouse who's at risk, 24 might honestly say, listen, I hear what you're saying, I get that we need to be at 55. But I am really uncomfortable with this, like, if our portfolio in a six month period ever dropped that number, like, I'd be like, we have to sell that would be my position. And so, my question to you, what would it look like if we met in the middle? And we were a risk 38? Okay, hey, that's a fair question. Now, we need to do is we need to look at the portfolio, it'd be a risk 38 and say, how does that impact our goals, okay, and if that means that we size our goals down a little bit, maybe we retire a little bit later, maybe we don't buy the vacation house for a few more years, maybe this may be that, but we changed some of those goals. And all of a sudden, the risk 20 forced us, looks over at the risk 72 spouse and says, Listen, I get that you're comfortable with this, but like, I would feel I would sleep so much better at night, if we could follow this plan instead of that plan. And like, couldn't we put off the vacation house for four more years, and I sleep better at night. And like that could be a really good compromise between two spouses. This is and think about the level of value that that financial advisor is driving by getting that couple to the point that they can have that conversation and come to that conclusion as a couple like that's very powerful. You feel like you've gotten a lot of value out of that financial advisor meeting, that's for sure.
Richard Walker 16:45
I already know, I need to get my advisor to use your tool. I'm talking better about this. Let me shift gears a little bit, because I read a little bit about how you started your company in the first couple years. It wasn't working the way you wanted. And then you shifted your focus. And I think you said you started focusing on financial advisors as your client. And that's when things started to take off. Right? Yeah, I have a question about that.
Aaron Klein 17:10
Well, I just to set you up like we what really happened is that we started the company, we wanted to work with financial advisors from day one. But we were afraid, we were afraid that great financial advisors weren't going to leverage brand new risk technology, because that was the first thing we were building was kind of the risk framework. And we're like great financial advisors, you're not going to use brand new risk technology on their clients, we have to figure out how to validate this. So we have this five-year plan for validating it with consumers and then bringing it to financial advisors. And it did not work, but we'd go into Yeah, based on.
Richard Walker 17:46
Okay, well, I look, I run a b2b company, and I do enterprise sales. And I found it incredibly hard to sell to the financial advisor to the independent user. So I'm wondering, how did you do that? How did you grow so fast with that market?
Aaron Klein 18:01
Great question. So, we started off with this thesis of like, okay, five-year plan, like we're gonna validate with the consumers, and we're gonna make money by licensing this technology to the self-directed brokers for them to leverage with like, the $25,000 E trade guy, or something like that. And it's going to drive like that kind of investor to be more in alignment with who they want to be, and like, figure out their stock trades to match. And so that's what we were kind of building at the very beginning with an eye towards like turning this into an advisor platform down the road. And we had actually circled 2015 on the calendar, like, that's when we were going to be an advisor product for the first time, 2015. So, somewhere in the middle of two, I actually was like Labor Day 2012. So as near the end of 2012, we had just exhausted that consumer strategy. Now I'll be clear, it was what 2012 I like to call it our year of successful failure, because we did launch the product out there and consumers loved it. So we got some PR we were in the New York Times, Barron's NPR, we had users come on and build like $27 billion in portfolios on that consumer tool, average account size, like $26,000 or something like that. So it was sorry, I got that wrong. It was $2 billion, but it was average account size $27,000 That's what it was. So it was enough traction that we were like okay there's $2 billion of validation on here 27,000 or average account size we nailed our E-trade guy like what we can't get it you know, in hindsight there were only five potential customers at the time on the face of planet Earth like Fidelity Schwab E-Trade Scottrade who am I missing fidelity Schwab? I can't remember the AmeriTrade at the time. Alright, so like, this is consolidated sense right? And two of those players are gone. So now there's only three But at the time, there were five. And we for the life of us could not get like some of them just flat out, they're like, oh, we don't work with outside partners for retail technology, we just don't do that, a couple of them were super interested in working together, one of them, like we almost got that contract done in the day had all these technology problems, and they couldn't make it work says the typical kind of like big enterprise, to us and six quarters, and we'll be ready to go, and then we're like, well, we've got three months of money left in the bank, like just worked out, and so. So suffice it to say, we kind of sat down Labor Day weekend of 2012. And I'm like, what do we have on the ship? That's good. I like to call it the Apollo 13 question, like, what do we have on the ship, that's good. And I could write down like great core technology, and $2 billion of validation. And so I was like, team, like, if we're going to, and we were a little team of like, three, four people, I'm like, if we're gonna go down, like, let's go down swinging, let's rebuild the product for financial advisors right now. And let's see if financial advisors won't buy into the $2 billion of validation. And so lo and behold, they did we rolled out the advisor product in 2013, two years, three years earlier than we expected. And early 2013, we kind of came out of beta, and it just took off like a rocket. But it was interesting, because probably in November of 2012, I met with an entrepreneur in the space, really nice, like generous guy generous with his time. And he was building a business that more sort of the asset management side of the space, and he said, oh, man, because you don't want to serve financial advisors, they're, they're super cheap, they cancel products all the time, they're really hard to sell to, they're very demanding blah, blah, like, he had this long list of things. And, you know, there was a little like, part of, I think they call it the lizard brain that was just telling me now, like, maybe this is not a good bet, like maybe this is not a good plan. But I had met a lot of financial advisors, and I just had this inkling that like, they needed better tools, that they made a really deep impact on people. And I was like, I bet you that we can build, we had a really good culture in our little organization of three or four people. And we had this like, never say die kind of mentality. And also a very like customer slash user-focused first mentality, like really thinking about the customer first and working backwards from there. And so I was like, I just feel like we can create a company that serves financial advisors and they are demanding, by the way, and they have high expectations. But I'm like, I think we can build an organization where we have higher expectations for ourselves than they have of us. And I think that could allow us to be successful with financial advisors. And so lo and behold, that's exactly what we did. And we, we went out there to the marketplace, and it just took off like a rocket when you give financial advisors, something that actually drives big growth in their businesses. That's a recipe for success for financial advisors. And my only regret, and I know we'll talk about this maybe a little bit is that we spent a decade being known as Riskalyze, named after the first feature that we built, when the truth is, is that we've been building this growth platform for wealth management firms for the last decade. And we've kind of been hiding it in plain sight. And I'm super excited about our next decade, because now the core benefit of what we actually drive for wealth management firms, just like out there for everybody to see.
Richard Walker 23:40
It's such a great story, Aaron, and we're actually in the throes of launching a new product this fall, and we've been debating, is that a quick product? Is it under that brand? Or is it a new product, new brand, and we realized it's part of the Quik! family. It's the same kind of core concept of what we do, but a new way of doing things. But it's a really challenging question to ask. And I want to come back and talk to you about why you changed your name to Nitrogen. But first, I have to ask a different question. Yeah, sure. You keep saying that you did $2 billion worth of validation. And I'm wondering, if you had never done that level of validation? Do you think your company would have taken off? Do you think if you had switched to financial advisors, you would have even earned the first customer?
Aaron Klein 24:19
It's a great question. I'm not sure that we would have. Financial advisors, I mean, maybe. The question is just like on Earth to what would have happened if we didn't do the validation, like, it's really hard to ever predict what would have happened on Earth too, I kind of doubt it, because I think financial advisors, and you've been one so like, I feel like I'm preaching to the choir here. But like, there are two things. I sometimes I think our entire company is a little bit of a miracle. Okay. And here's what I mean by that. I think that every time I've talked to a financial advisor, put myself in their shoes, it feels like there's two things that are the most precious things in a Financial Advisors life. The first is the client review. Okay? Because if they have a bad client review, okay, the client just goes, I have entrusted my life savings to this person and like they just really fumbled. Like they are fumbling the ball and they don't know what they're talking about. I don't think I can trust them anymore fam, a cat form, money gone. Okay, revenue gone client gone. Like it's that simple. Like you can't afford one stumble client review, like most precious thing. The second most precious thing and a financial advisors life, I think is the prospect meeting, like, this is my shot, I'm not going to get a ton of these at bats. And I've got a meeting with a prospect. And this is my shot to do real growth in my firm. And it might be my shot this quarter. I mean, some firms do four meetings for prospect meetings a year. Okay, so I'm gonna do one a month, okay. It's not like I'm getting tons of at bats. And it's like baseball. And it's like, well, if I'm batting 333, like, I am absolutely phenomenal, okay, like, I feel like I've got a small number of at bats, and I need to treat each one with the precious, like, I need to be very, very, they're fragile, I need to be very, very cautious with these. So our company is a little bit of a miracle, because the only thing that we asked you to do to adapt the Nitrogen process in your firm is to disrupt the number one and number two most precious things that you do in your life. That's all. That's all right, you just have to change how you're doing your client review, to weave this really powerful set of visuals and conversation into your client review. And again, the good news for us is that I think we've built something that's so simple and intuitive and easy to use, that the financial advisor goes, I can do this, like I can do this, I'll do a little bit of training. And like, I can do this, and I'm not going to fumble and I'm not going to stumble, and it's going to make my client meeting better, it's probably got a 8x chance of making it better than causing me to stumble. So like, I think that's been our saving grace. And then for the prospect meetings, they can see the power of being able to the average financial advisor, prospect meeting, you know, this is about building trust and credibility. And when all you've got to do that are kind of like some stories and gleaming photos of your family on the credenza behind you. And hopefully, your financial adviser that has a family otherwise, you have to hire people to be in the photos. And then of the past.
Richard Walker 27:26
I still don't know how I got my first client.
Aaron Klein 27:30
Right? Like, that's the thing. And so it's so powerful when you can shift the conversation to building trust with data, right? Because if the client tells you, they're a 44, and then you're the one who shows them, they're invested like a 92, all of a sudden, they're like, I'm learning something here, I never understood I innately felt, but I haven't been able to put my finger on and you showed it to me, you've got it going on. And that's trust and credibility with advisors,
Richard Walker 27:59
You give those advisors the opportunity to have clarity with their customers, which is super, super important. So I'm just I mean, don't answer this. That's kind of a funny question. But did you give the advisor their own risk number on their ability to perform in those two jobs?
Aaron Klein 28:13
That's funny. That's a funny, I never even thought about that idea before. That's very funny. No, but what I also found very humorous is that as you know, full Well, there are financial advisors actually trying to grow. And then there are financial advisors who are simply trying to, they're thinking about growth differently, they simply don't want to shrink, okay, they want to count the clients that they've got, keep them very happy, very satisfied, they want to do very, very moderate growth, if any new client growth, and I figured this out when I was Nitrogen’s own at the time, Riskalyze is owned only salesperson, I'm talking to a financial advisor on the phone, grizzled old guy. And about halfway through, like showing him like how this can help him grow his business. He's like, son, I could use another client, like, I could use a hole in the head. And I have my brain spinning on that for a second. I'm like, Well, let me show you how we can help you get out on the golf course every day by 2:30 Guaranteed he goes, now you're talking son, keep going. And just talking about how if your clients can see and understand these things that you've been telling them for years, and they know what to expect in their portfolio, they're not calling you at four in the afternoon saying we're down 3% am I okay? They now know what is normal for their portfolio. And so it's so interesting that you said that because those are the advisors, you might say were a little bit higher risk, but they grabbed on to it as well because they're like if my clients can see and understand this is a better life, not just for them, but for me, too.
Richard Walker 29:43
Yeah, well, look, I want to summarize a point that you made, which is or I was asking about to see if it was important. A lot of businesses fail to validate what they're doing. And financial advisors do the same. I mean, I was in that boat before I left financial planning. I thought oh, I'm gonna be the next Suze Orman. I'm gonna write books. So I'm gonna do workshops and seminars, right? You really have to test these theories out. And I think the fact that you did it with a different market, so to speak, and learn from that and had enough foresight to switch and say, now let's take these learnings and apply it to a actual market that can pay you. Yeah, in hindsight, I think it's genius. And I think it's really introspective of you and your team to made that pivot at that moment.
Aaron Klein 30:25
Thank you. In hindsight, we also felt it was genius. At the time, we were just it was called desperation. I know it's like. That's right. Exactly. Exactly.
Richard Walker 30:37
Well, let's talk about your success in a different light. I mean, you're 10 years, 12 years, I'm not doing the math, right. You certainly bucked the trend of being able to survive as a company, beyond most entrepreneurs. But now you've come to that phase where you said let's rebrand. Yeah, and tell me about that. How hard was that decision to come to? Why is it important you guys to rebrand?
Aaron Klein 30:59
Yeah, absolutely. I honestly, never thought we would, I spent probably the last six years, I have like a list of questions. I like to like, think about I kind of, you know, like, make this list. And I spent, it gets a little quiet between Christmas and New Year's. And I generally kind of try to spend that time like thinking about those kinds of questions. So I think, like, probably six years in a row, I thought about, should we rebrand the company, I'm like, because everybody just thinks that we're risk tolerance documentation questionnaire, like, that's what people think we are. And a very wise person said to me very recently, they're like, you know, branding. And I have learned this to be true branding is such a double-edged sword. If you do it poorly, you can change your brand to mean anything you want it to meet. If you do a really good job of it, you are stuck in the box that you've created for yourself. So I don't know the details of your new product. But I would argue to you like I know the Quik brand. And I know that Quik means a great experience, like getting paperwork done quickly. Okay, quickly. And so if your new product has a different benefit, or a broader goal than that, it probably is going to be a challenge for people to understand that Quik provides it, if it's in that family of work, like it's going to actually just like the brand is just going to propel that new product in a really powerful way. So that's what we found is we had a brand that was not propelling our work. It was actually like stereotyping it back. Somebody said it says, If Jeff Bezos named his company onlinebookstore.com, like that was a name for beat one of Amazon. Not a great to have Amazon. And so yeah, it was a tough decision. It was such a tough decision. But our new chief marketing officer came in with the data to show like, like we are talking to these large firms. And they go well, I mean, of course, we've heard of you give a great reputation. Many of our advisors love you, we don't even really understand it. Because like, we don't need another risk tolerance documentation tool around here like that. We don't need to do that as a firm, right? So they didn't understand that it was a growth platform to drive firm wide growth in a wealth management firm. They thought of it as just a risk tolerance documentation tool. And so anyway, it was fascinating. The data was very clear on that. So we just decided, like, we've got to rip this band-aid off, we've got to do it. And we undertook this long effort. I mean, first of all, we spent time with a firm called Lexicon Branding. And this is a storied firm that has named a bunch of the great brands in our world. Sonos, Impossible Burger, Febreeze Swiffer, Subaru Forester, PowerBook, Pentium for Intel, like, just some amazing names, okay. They came up with like, 40 different names for us to review, they present them all to you, by the way on a white slide with black letters, because they don't want you to be like tilted dialer, or something like that. So, there were some really intriguing ones. There were some absolutely horrible ones. The worst one, I've shared before was green flash, which felt to me like a mix between like The Incredible Hulk and the sex offenders list or something like green flash, like, like, just not good. But that there are some doozies that they've hidden in there just to be able to like, oh, that's the one we're gonna reject. Like, that's the one they're gonna act. We know. That's it. I'm pretty sure green flashes that one. But nonetheless, like, there were some really good ones. But when Nitrogen came up on the screen, we're like, oh, my gosh, like that, is it? We just have to have it like, it's the essential element for growth on our planet. It's a force multiplier. It's a catalyst that drives growth. And so, that is what we do for wealth management firms. And so the response to it has been really great and I'll tell you? On the one hand, if there's been any negative response, it's been solo advisors who would use the Riskalyze brand with their clients. And they're like, I don't really know if the nitrogen brand like fits that as well. And I'm like, well listen, we still own the Riskalyze brand, you can continue to use the term Riskalyze. With your clients still or brand, you can do that. Okay, you can also consider using extreme but honestly, like, we actually design neither of those brands like your our audience, we just either of those brands to be client facing, we actually designed the Risk Number brand to be client facing. Notice that our logo has never been in it so that you can kind of slide it in under your branding and make it work really well. For you.
Richard Walker 35:43
This sounds like a great opportunity to talk to your clients more and actually help them evolve to which is such a good outcome from that point. Use your brand even better now.
Aaron Klein 35:53
Yeah, great point. And so there's that. The other thing that surprised me, on the other end of the spectrum, larger firms are absolutely loving this because they're like, we have a different problem. We're trying to drive adoption of your technology by advisors. And so we go out to advisor and say, we want you to use Riskalyze. And they're like, Oh, another compliance tool, more patient, right? And we go out and say, hey, we want you to use nitrogen and to help drive growth in your practice and in our firm, and people like, let's go. So it's been really great for driving kind of enterprise-class firm, wide adoption by firms so far in these first few weeks post rebrand.
Richard Walker 36:34
So did you get the license Fast and Furious and show the nitrous booths to? Just kidding?
Aaron Klein 36:39
We're thinking about it, we're thinking about it. Yeah, we have to think about a race car painted purple or something like that. There you go.
Richard Walker 36:45
Well, Aaron, I love that you're thinking this way. A lot of brands struggle with this. A lot of companies struggle with this. And it's really nice to see a company do this well. Let's talk about the future a little bit, because I want to bring up one of my favorite topics, artificial intelligence. And I want to ask you, and please, let's not go down the rabbit hole too far, because we could talk all day, I'm sure you're okay. But how do you see AI changing are impacting your customer experience? And just by the way, I mean, we have a customer who is trying to do AI sentiment analysis to watch people's reaction to risk questions. So they could figure out oh, no, they think they're high risk, they're low risk, or whatever. So I'm really curious how you see AI impacting your business.
Aaron Klein 37:24
Yeah, I'm a bit skeptical of that kind of AI, like, like we're going to look at people's faces and determine me, like people have been using poker faces, or frankly, overemphasizing their emotions and wearing their emotions on their sleeve one way or the other, for decades, to centuries, maybe even millennia for different reasons. And sometimes we do that, without even knowing that we do that. Just because we want to keep our cards close to our chest, or we want to shift this person's perception of us in a different way. So I think that's kind of like the next generation of an old idea, which is we're going to figure out your risk tolerance by attaching, data aggregation to your brokerage account and seeing if you ever sold the stock after it went down? Well, maybe they made a very reasoned, calm, rational decision, maybe they had a stoploss already put in three months ago, like, who knows? Yeah, still skeptical of that. I'm very skeptical that now I am wildly bullish on AI just as a platform ship and as a technology layer, because so we actually shipped Nitrogen AI, just like one tiptoe into that, with the ability to, you know, in our as part of our advisor marketing kit, you can generate blog posts, tweets and other kinds of content using an AI model trained on tons of advisor content. And you can use like all kinds of topics, you type in the topics you want, you can say, here's the tone, here's the demographic I'm shooting for. And here's the kind of content I'm looking for naturally, I will generate a first draft for you. And we look at that and say, it's not going to write it for you. But what advisor says, Well, I don't have time, and I have writer's block, well, we can solve 100% of the writer's block and 80% of the time, because now you're an editor, instead of a writer with a blank sheet of paper. So I think that's super cool. I think AI is going to really, really save us a lot of clicks, and really save us a lot of manually entering data because I think what's going to happen is the machine is just going to get smarter and smarter and smarter about probably what you want to do. And it's still going to be human-driven decisions, confirming and editing and tweaking and not just doing as much creation from scratch. And how cool is that day going to be?
Richard Walker 39:48
Yeah, no, for sure. But I think that's a great way to look at it. And it's nice to hear that you're putting stuff into your product because like I use ChatGPT all the time to write things. My wife's launching a business so we've been using it to come up with even brand names. It's so wow, that's cool. That's all treated like a personal assistant rather...
Aaron Klein 40:06
Cheaper than what I did for my brand name, but effective, but we'll find out, we'll find out.
Richard Walker 40:13
Aaron, as we wrap this up, I do have another question for you. Before I ask it, what is the best way for people to connect with you?
Aaron Klein 40:19
Sure, well, I am on Twitter, I'm at Aaron Klein, on Twitter, and on LinkedIn as well and love connecting with people, you want to learn a little bit more about Nitrogen or nitrogenwealth.com. And also I just love like hearing from great financial advisors and great business leaders and entrepreneurs. And so I'm good on email as well. I'm firstname.lastname@example.org easy to reach.
Richard Walker 40:44
Awesome. All right, man, you shared so many really great things and stories with us. But here's my last question. Yeah. Who has had the biggest impact on your leadership? Or how you approach your role?
Aaron Klein 40:56
Such a great question. And I find it really hard to get it down to one person. So I'm just going to cheat. And I'm going to answer basically two people. So the first of the my dad, I started working for my dad at the age of 12, in the afternoons after school, and very different business, not the software business, very low margin distribution kind of company. And as a result, I learned from him just a couple of things like the grip that it takes to be an entrepreneur, I learned from him that relationships are just everything in business, if you take care of your clients, they will take care of you. And we try to keep that very much in mind with our customer-driven value at Nitrogen and being really, really focused on how to make sure that we're driving like 10x value to the customer compared to what we're capturing. So I think that's number one. The other person I call it a really great mentor of mine, a guy named Phil. And here's what I learned from Phil, he was about to sell his business. And I said, oh, so you're going to retire? He goes, no, he goes, like human beings are not meant to retire. I'm going to refocus my refocus meant is I'm going to spend some time working on like, nonprofit work with orphans and like working on this thing, these things with my church and like this. And so I just look at that. And I've been very inspired by that as well. And so my dad and Phil, my mentor two great individuals who have really inspired me in some great ways.
Richard Walker 42:23
Wow, that is awesome. That reminds me of my mentor, because his definition of retirement was the ability to do what you want, where you want, when you want how you want, hopefully with whom you want, but I can't help you there. Yeah, it is about refocus. That's such a great view. Man, this has just been awesome. So look, I want to say thank you to Aaron Klein, CEO of Nitrogen for being on this episode of the customer wins. Go check out Aaron's website at nitrogenwealth.com. And don't forget to check out Quik! at quikforms.com where we take the work out of paperwork. I hope you've enjoyed this discussion, and we'll click the like button, share this with someone and subscribe to our future channels. Sorry, our channel for future episodes of The Customer Wins. Aaron, it was fantastic having you thank you so much for joining me today.
Aaron Klein 43:07
Thanks so much for having me. Have a great day.
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