When it comes to trading, they stay ahead of the game

Jersey City-based Scivantage keeping edge in fintech field

Andrew Sheldon//October 5, 2015//

When it comes to trading, they stay ahead of the game

Jersey City-based Scivantage keeping edge in fintech field

Andrew Sheldon//October 5, 2015//

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Started in 2000, the Jersey City-based financial technology company started with an eye on allowing individuals to do online investment and stock trading.

“That was a very big thing at that time: The founders were doing that for another company when they decided they could help other companies do it,” said Joe Stensland, Scivantage’s chief commercial officer of wealth management. “So, Scivantage became a pioneer in online trading.”

In a little more than 15 years, the company has come to provide its services for 10 of the top 20 online brokerage firms, three of the industry’s top five prime brokerages and two of the top six U.S. banks, executives said. These clients utilize Scivantage’s software for online brokering, tax and portfolio management, and wealth management applications to help guide financial decisions for the company or its clients.

All that has helped the company of about 150 employees reach what will be an estimated $38 million in revenue in 2015.

Biz in brief
Company: Scivantage
Headquarters: Jersey City
Founded: 2000
Founder: Adnane Charchour
One more thing: In 2015, Scivantage was awarded both the Sell-Side Technology Award and the Financial Technologies Forum News Excellence Award.

Though Scivantage continues to provide its original service as a major line of its business, it has continued steady growth over the years through both acquisition and product development. Stensland, who joined the company in 2006, is a case in point.

“I sold my prior company to Scivantage, so I came by way of acquisition,” he said. “I knew some of the managers; there was a relationship there and so it was fit.”

Stensland’s previous company was Kenamea, which provided messaging services focused on providing real-time user interaction over websites including notification centers for financial technology. In more ways than one, the acquisition spurred growth for the company.

“We brought in a couple of key clients and were, at Scivantage, already deploying that application to a couple of our clients,” he said. “And we had some technology that we ended up applying as part of our wealth management platform.”

In 2006, the company launched another of its flagship products, Maxit, which provides its users with cost-basis reporting.

The launch of that product was also a reaction to an emerging need in the industry.

“There were some changes in the regulations that required brokerage firms to record their cost basis data from their clients to the IRS,” he said. “Our software did that and handled it for them.”

A closer look: Coping with growth
During his time with Scivantage, Joe Stensland has seen the company grow from 20 employees to 240 before settling back down at its current 150 workers. And while employee growth and product diversification is a necessary part of business, it presents its own host of problems.
Those are challenges Stensland said the company is taking head-on.
“We’re focusing on our relationship management with clients by having scorecards, key metrics and items that we follow in order to manage and make sure our service levels are where we think they ought to be and, more importantly, where our clients expect them to be,” he said. “Operational rigor, I would call it, which is putting practices in place that help a larger company manage itself better: When you’re growing really fast in an innovative cycle, you don’t always put the things in place to help the trains run on time.”
But that doesn’t mean things were easier 10 years ago.
“I’ve done most of the other jobs at the company,” Stensland said. “When you’re 20 people, everybody does everything.”

This product initiated what Stensland calls a “second wave of growth” for the company.

“We spent some time building (the technology), but from 2008 to 2010, we brought on 13 new customers,” he said. “In 2013, we started a partnership with Broadridge that extended that to 16 additional customers, and now the Maxit product is the leading product in the marketplace for cost basis reporting.”

It was growth at a rapid pace, Stensland said, and an instance in which government regulation helped to foster the success of a business.

“At first (the growth) seemed fast, but then it was really fast: the company was bigger and there was more capability,” he said. “But, with the cost-basis stuff, there was no getting out of the deadline. It was a government-imposed, regulatory deadline and that was a big boost.”

With the growth offered by those two business channels, Stensland said the company is taking time to refocus its efforts on customer service and responding the company’s growth by finding ways to improve its operations and efficiency.

“Growth is a challenge, as much as it is rewarding, and

everybody plays a little bit in that challenge,” he said. “We want to be able to extend our customer service and we’ve brought in a whole suite of new executives to help focus on, now that we’ve grown to this new level, how to not just make this more effective for ourselves but, more importantly, more important for our customers.”

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