They raised $100 million just in 2021 at a $447 million valuation and are backed by the likes of JP Morgan and Cathy Wood’s Ark Invest.

Ian Rosen, CEO of Financial Answers, and I spoke at length yesterday about what their view on the digital financial media industry, the critical role of the retail investor, and why he is looking to acquire 10 financial publishers or trader educators in the next twelve months.

He was General Manager of MarketWatch.

Founded Even Financial.

Then took over as CEO of Stock Twits.

You can get his take on the publishing and trader education world in this video.

As he says he and I are in “violent agreement” about the state of the industry. The opportunities in front of us. 

Financial publishers & digital financial media entrepreneurs do – creating and engaging investor audiences – is both THE HARDEST PART of fintech.

That’s why financial media & publishing companies already own what is essentially  lifeblood all fintech companies need to survive… but most don’t have. 

Our industry has it, most fintech companies don’t.

But the subscription model is failing to capture the true value of your customers.

Instead, fintech startups are raising hundreds of millions of dollars and then trying to get publishers to send them customers.

That leaves pubs without a massive valuation and exit.

And transfers the most valuable asset in the digital world right now (engaged investors) over to other businesses.

If you own or operate a financial publishing or media business, you need to listen to this conversation from our Financial Marketing Summit conference conversations.


JOHN NEWTSON: This is John from FMS. I’m here today with Ian Rosen. Ian is the CEO of Financial Answers, which is a FinTech platform that partners with financial media companies to bring wealth and investment intelligence to investors and Financial Answers is a division of TIFIN, which a lot of you guys have heard about, I think because they have been making quite a few acquisitions in the publishing space. And just to give you a little bit more background on Ian. Ian, while he’s CEO of Financial Answers now, previous to this, he was the General Manager of MarketWatch, and then he left and founded Even Financial, and then following that, he was CEO of StockTwits and I think you were also a mentor for FinTech at Techstars, is that right?

IAN ROSEN: That’s true, yeah.

JOHN NEWTSON: So he’s got a huge amount of experience dealing with the digital environment and the retail investor and I’m really excited to have you here Ian, because we’ve had so many great conversations and I love your perspectives on the industry and the market so thanks for joining us.

Yeah, thanks so much for having me. I agree, it’s been great to be talking about this stuff.

JOHN NEWTSON: Just to give everyone the 50,000 foot view on what you do at Financial Answers, would you just map that out and then maybe put it in the context of TIFIN more broadly, which has quite a few divisions?

IAN ROSEN: Yeah, sure. As you mentioned John, my background is primarily as an operator, most people in the space know me from MarketWatch and then I left to co-found Even financial, which is a customer acquisition platform, working with publishers for acquiring users for financial products and then I was CEO of StockTwits which is the largest social network for investing and trading. And during all this time, the thing that really started to develop for me is I’m looking at the Financial services and FinTech world and I’m seeing products being easier and easier to build. Not that it’s easy, but they’re easier and easier to build certain products, even high margin products that are disrupting the space.

IAN ROSEN: And all of these products have the same challenges, which is, “Okay now we’ve built something this disruptive, how do we get users?” And the way to solve for that problem typically has been to work with sources of traffic and leads and publishers like most of our own companies and the companies that we work with. And I’m looking at, “If it’s getting easier to build products, what’s the hard thing?” The hard thing is to have A, an organic source of traffic and users and engaged audiences, people that trust you and those are things that take a lot of time to build, they take years to build.

IAN ROSEN: There are digital street corners that we’ve all worked very, very hard to create. And in the base case of those properties, we’re selling ads and then the mid case we’re selling subscriptions and the better case we’re doing affiliate deals but in reality, the highest value of that audience is actually being captured by some of these other companies. And when I was at StockTwits, we raised money and built a broker dealer specifically for that reason. But I think many companies just don’t have the time or inclination or capital or skills to achieve that value.

IAN ROSEN: So what Financial Answers is all about is first helping investors connect to the right investment products and have the best outcomes and meet the right advisors and things like that. But secondarily for the companies that are bringing them into the space, helping those companies achieve the best outcomes by maximizing the value of their audience. We are doing the hard thing in a shorter sentence and Financial Answers is part TIFIN as you mentioned, John. TIFIN is a FinTech with all the toys that financial media publishers want. We have broker dealer, we have RIA, we have thematic basket partner built by us in Morningstar, all the things that allow an individual investor to continue seamlessly along their journey from where they’re learning what to do with publishers and products in our ecosystem, but then taking those actions and doing it in a healthy way while making the companies that are part of the Financial Answers ecosystem significantly more valuable.

JOHN NEWTSON: That’s great. And so I want to focus on a few areas to start with, because I think these are the areas that are the most interesting and most pertinent to the financial publishing and trade education world. One is the area of the market context right now on the retail investor and the financial media companies and where they fit within everything? And then two, and maybe we should just first, is expound a little bit more on this idea of value capture of an investor because we’ve seen this a lot already where we have publishers, especially on the private market platform size, it’s the most obvious where you’ll have a FinTech platform that is a marketplace for private deals, crowdfunding, RIA all of their traffic, all of their investment is coming because of a couple of publishers recommending deals on there to the point where they won’t even cover some of the companies unless they can get a publishing partner.

JOHN NEWTSON: And so now you have these companies, these publishers who’ve spent a ton of money because it costs a lot of money to acquire customers and leads and build that audience and they’re capturing subscription value and in the publishing world, they’re all having their best or around 1.3 billion or whatever, it seems big, but in the financial world, I always joke, it’s like the pimple on the butt of the financial industry, it’s not that big but the customer is increasingly important and the value that that customer represents is dramatically more than simply subscription sales. And so you in particular have talked to me quite a bit and obviously what you guys are doing is helping people transition that value. Could you expound on that issue of value capture within digital investing media?

IAN ROSEN: I think you said it exactly the right way. I think that for a lot of these high value platforms, the lifeblood of these platforms, the foundation of these platforms is the most valuable commodity in the digital ecosystem today, which is attention. If we talk about time on site and all of the metrics that we have for media, if you consider the fact that we have a phone in our hands 24/7 and every minute of that time that is ours is unbelievably valuable.

IAN ROSEN: We are the lifeblood, financial media is the lifeblood of all those other platforms and I believe there’s a mismatch. I think that the way these companies that own and capture the attention and time and trust of the users that are the lifeblood for these incredibly high value other companies is improperly valued in the sense that, you have revenue models that look like Azure subscriptions that are affiliated with it but in reality, there’s a giant arbitrage and mismatch between the hard part, which is what we’re doing, we being financial media publishers, and the much easier part of building a platform that leverages the users of those publishers.

IAN ROSEN: I just see this as a giant opportunity and I know why it exists and we all know why it exists. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with my peers and other publishers where we say, “We’re thinking of building an RIA, we were going to partner with this financial advisory group or I was going to build a broker dealer.” But those things are very difficult, I did it, we did it at StockTwits, we raised 9 million dollars, we built a broker dealer, it’s hard and it’s a totally different set of skills. And I think that the right way to align that value capture for our community who is doing, I’m going to keep saying it the hard part, is to partner with companies like Financial Answers and TIFIN where we can put these things together, we can make both sides significantly more valuable.

JOHN NEWTSON: And you do have that, right? You have a lot of different groups, you have different platforms, you have access points where media companies and publishers, if they come into the fold, they have the opportunity now to, I don’t know, not just… They don’t have to give up their subscription business, it’s just now you add these other layers of the business, correct?

IAN ROSEN: It’s completely additive, that’s exactly right. I think that when a lot of people are acquiring in our space and I’ve been on both sides of the table, but we’ve all been in these conversations where essentially there’s some acquirer who’s doing some roll up where they’re saying, “Oh this is great, I’m going to match these things together. I’m going to combine the costs, I’m going to combine ad tech stacks and make the numerator go up a little bit and flip it.”That’s not what this is at all because we believe that we are transforming or helping to transform the business models.

IAN ROSEN: We’re looking for high quality founders, high quality audiences to come in run… There’s a tremendous amount of respect within the Financial Answers umbrella. We help each other, yeah there are ways to work together but in essence, the reason that we don’t have to make those kinds of really tough choices is because we do have those other very high value tools. On the TIFIN side, we have a company called Magnifi which has an advisor component and a retail component. The retail component has a commission free brokerage. It’s all widgetized, highly usable, a lot of intelligence and ability to search.

IAN ROSEN: Magnifi itself is a marketplace of investments, we partner with Morningstar to create our own thematic baskets of investments, which you can invest in through Magnifi. All these are things that are very difficult for the typical publishers to be able to… Yes, maybe they can provide access through a biz dev partnership. What we can do is we can deeply integrate these tools and help our companies participate in those revenue models, which makes them not look so much like financial media publishers from evaluation perspective, but look a lot more like companies that are helping to facilitate the real financial services value to get off that pimple on the butt and get into the main-

JOHN NEWTSON: And just to be clear to all you guys listening, obviously Ian’s experience, you have this, I don’t know, premier executive experience within financial but you guys are backed by some pretty serious folks as well. I feel like this is the start of the really big money coming into the industry on our side, in the publishing trader education world because you’ve raised quite bit of money, you have quite… Who are some of your partners? Who are some of the investors that have backed you guys?

IAN ROSEN: I don’t know if we’re the first, but we’re certainly, uniquely one of the companies that we did a series, A, B and C all in the same year, raised 100,000,000 dollars just in 2021. The most recent public valuation was 447 million. JP Morgan, Morningstar, Broadridge, Hamilton Lane is our most recent investor. What’s interesting to me is when I speak with our investors and I speak with other people in the larger TIFIN ecosystem, which anyone can go to the TIFIN website, we have a lot of people that have been around a lot of blocks. Sharon French used President of AIG Asset Management and Anil Arora was the CEO of Yodlee who took it public. Cathie Wood is on our board, these are all folks that have a significant amount of experience.

IAN ROSEN: What they’re buying into and helping to create is this idea that wealth management, particularly from the asset managers to the wealth managers to FAs and retail, that this is a process that has a huge numbers of friction still, it doesn’t really look like the way we buy other products. The way we buy other products through Netflix and Amazon and everything else, there’s a huge amount more personalization, reduction of friction and TIFIN is very much committed to building and buying and acquiring and investing in areas to reduce that friction. Financial Answers is a part of that story in the sense that the retail investor is at least half of the market. The retail investor is a source of a lot of the intelligence as to like…

IAN ROSEN: Every financial advisor, every asset manager at the end of that road is an individual investor, a family, an individual and Financial Answers through our ability to aggregate audiences, to provide other tools, to look at the data around what our audiences are doing, that we can help reduce some of those frictions. And our larger investors at TIFIN, they see that for what it is, which is a unique transformation of an entire sector, where we have a consumer data portal for the retail investor and an ontology around that, that simply hasn’t existed before.

IAN ROSEN: People talk about, “Data is the new oil and all that.” This is that, this does not exist in our industry and we have the capital and the skills and the team to be able to make that true. And the companies that come with us at Financial Answers along the way are going to benefit, that’s why we’re so careful about who we want to bring in. Look, there are a lot of unbelievable operators and actors in our space, and there are some people that maybe are not the right fit for us but we’re looking to work with people that we think are great and one go on that route.

JOHN NEWTSON: I have a bunch of predictions/ theses about our industry in the publishing world. And one of them is that we’re basically entering this period where competition, traditionally in our space has really been, especially on like the Fin Pub trader education side, it’s really been for talent, it’s almost entirely for talent. Other than like recruiting, everybody works together and cross promotes and does things quite well and we’re not taking enough in the media pie in general that we’re edging each other out.

My prediction is that we’re moving into a period where essentially we’re moving to a revenue model, business strategy, competition phase, where there are going to be new models that come up that are going to transform the subscription side of the business because and I feel like you guys are a perfect example of that because this additive element fundamentally changes the value of the customer. And so the publishers who work with you, the customers that they’re acquiring, their value to the business is going to be much higher than simply subscription sales-


JOHN NEWTSON: And then that changes all of your acquisition math, which means scaling becomes a completely different gain now.

IAN ROSEN: You’re right that this is a fractured space, it’s been that way for a long time. I think recently for a variety of reasons that we’ve been talking about, there is an opportunity to combine forces and to create larger players that can bring more of these skills to bear. TIFIN, we have I think 350 people now, probably 100 and change of them are pure development, data science. There are very few publishers, even very large publishers that can bring that level of resource to bear on the kinds of problems we’re talking about. So the value capture, to your point, when I look at companies that we want to work with, I don’t think about, “Okay, how’s your subscription base going to grow? How are we going to squeeze an extra 5% out of that price?” I think, “What’s the ultimate value of that audience to an asset manager? And how are we going to identify signals that are going to allow us to put that in place without disrupting the existing business?”

IAN ROSEN: One of the really important parts of our business is that we need founders to… Not need but we want founders to stay, we’re looking to get great businesses where their founders are looking for that next step up, they’re looking for that next way to amp their business up into the next level, both revenue wise and size wise, they’re looking for partners to do that with, they enjoy doing what they’re doing. And I can’t tell you how many conversations I have with people where they’re like, “Well, how do I know you’re not going to get rid of me in a year?” I’m like, “How do I know you’re going to stay in a year? I will happily incent you to stay for 10 years.” I think we’re unique in that space.

IAN ROSEN: Our math is different, it’s more about, “How do we bring the right people in? The right companies in? And together we’re going to create a powerful force in our space with a good, fun, competent group of people that just like winning.” The best part about this is that we get to go into these conversations and say, “Guess what? We have all the toys, all the capital, all the skills, I can get people on the phone that are going to open that door for you. We’re going to get you onto these platforms that you couldn’t get callbacks from. You can look at my resume or the other TIFIN people, we like to succeed.”

JOHN NEWTSON: The math piece is huge because I remember you said this actually one of earlier calls and I thought this was hilarious and so true you said that you teach your kids, “This world rewards people who are good at math and punishes people who are bad at math.”

IAN ROSEN: That’s right. And it doesn’t serve anyone to have… All these companies, a great 3, 5, 8 million dollar business, 10 million business, where we have a bunch of people that are doing a lot of the same functions, are not able to invest in the things that we really want or know are going to move the needle. The reason I got into FA and I think this goes back to your first question and I wrote an article on this on LinkedIn which I didn’t even look at. I was just frankly, I am extremely annoyed and angry that the entire FinTech ecosystem is essentially capitalizing on the back of something that has been carefully grown for years, for decades. This is the moment for-

JOHN NEWTSON: Absolutely and it is, it’s frustrating. It’s not just frustrating, in some cases it’s been just infuriating-

IAN ROSEN: Infuriating.

JOHN NEWTSON: Infuriating to see that the hardest part, the thing that most of the guys and women who have these great publishing and media businesses have done is the hardest part, they’ve done it without, in most cases, even didn’t raise any capital, they bootstrapped a lot of these things, built these amazing businesses, and then the value just gets transferred out-


JOHN NEWTSON: In some cases, not even for advertising dollars, really just as part of the deliverable and it’s insane to me. And so just to step back-

IAN ROSEN: You have FinTech companies that are taking venture money at ridiculous multiples and just shoveling it into a fire of Google and Facebook ads. This is an opportunity I would say this is all wrong and it is, but it’s an opportunity for us.

JOHN NEWTSON: To people out there, publishers and educators in media groups out there who are interested in the possibility of partnering or being acquired, whatever the actual deal looks like, I think it’d be good to get your perspective because you have come from the FinTech world, you’ve also worked with the MarketWatchers and the StockTwits and you’ve founded a company that… Let’s talk about the retail investor and what this opportunity really represents now for all these media groups. The opportunity that you as a company represent right now to our space, is the opportunity to participate in all of these other areas. That size of that market, the size and the important of the retail mar… Let’s talk about the retail investor and where that’s driving the rest of financial?

IAN ROSEN: This is one of my favorite topics because like yourself, we got to watch this unfold for so many years. We were told that, “The retail investor doesn’t matter and it’s a tiny part of the market and all this stuff isn’t relevant anyway” and then the world changed. And the reason the world changed is first of all, technology has allowed much easier access into the kind of platforms that allow people to participate. When we were kids or I think, similar generation, the ability to buy and sell, that was the mode, TD and Schwab and Fidelity, they had the ability to transact so all the engagement tools were built around that and financial media and education was this thing off to the side.

IAN ROSEN: Well, okay, now the ability to transact is an API. The users at StockTwits or MarketWatch or anyone else, they don’t know from which platform is different. They should know because there are inherent differences, but the ability to transact is not the hard part, having someone’s attention and engagement and learning how to do something is the hard part and that’s where actually we all excel. So what’s happened is you have this huge wealth transfer from boomers to millennials. Millennials are now aging into having money to invest either by inheriting or growing and moving up in their careers, in their jobs. I think in something that’s fantastic, they are a… It’s not just millennials, we all are more of a DIY culture now and I think that’s what makes America great.

IAN ROSEN: It’s like, “We learn how to do something. Okay, we’re going to dive in. I might like to eat at restaurants, but I also want to learn how to cook and by the way, once I start cooking, I’m going to critique your cooking and I want to engage around those things and share my successes and share my challenges” and all those trends of DIY and technology and the move to mobile so you can do things more easily on your phone, have fundamentally changed both the interest level and the role of the retail investor in the market. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had in the last, I’d say three years where some PE firm or somebody calls like, “Hey listen, I want to understand this thing,” because it’s just bewildering I think to a lot of the institutional players that are out there and that’s a great thing.

IAN ROSEN: This is a retail wave of people learning how to take their financial destiny, the ability to trade, the ability to invest, personal finance into their own hands even if that means their hands are now going to be more successful at picking the best financial advisor-


IAN ROSEN: But in any case, being better educated is never a bad thing. And where transaction was the hard part before now, transaction’s the easy part. The hard part is what we have been doing for decades, get people interested, get them engaged, teach them how to do things, help them take the next step and if technology allows us to line up that education with actually taking the actions in the form of using Broker dealers, like with Financial Answers and TIFIN or thematic baskets or trading education or all those different things, if we can line those things up, my strong belief is that in a wave of retail investing ascendancy, that if there’s going to be value to accrue, that value should accrue to those that have the investor’s interest best at heart and that’s this community, not “Oh I stood up a baby broker using, I’m not going to name names, but using a clearing firm and put a hot skin on it and I raised a bunch of capital and now I’m trying to buy users at $400 a user.”

IAN ROSEN: That’s not the answer, the answer is for us to take that power and yes, it’s true for the good of humanity, but it also is something that’s going to be extremely lucrative for whichever side wins, which is going to be ours.

JOHN NEWTSON: Yeah and I love that because you’re right. We always joke that, “What we sell basically is we arbitrage engagement.”


JOHN NEWTSON: And it’s true but then the fact is, is that the superpower of the financial media or investment newsletter or trader educator is to find and engage an investor or trader, engage your attention. And then the subscription model, it’s just revenue model that’s put on the back end, that could be anything.

IAN ROSEN: Yeah because that’s the thing, we all look at the arbitrary as like, “Okay, customer acquisition costs, let’s say I can get a user for $2 and I can get a subscription and the LTV of that is $150.” We’re all like, “oh my God, that’s amazing.” But what’s the value of that user? It’s probably thousands of dollars, you have to extend the metaphor to the right person and products.

JOHN NEWTSON: Yeah, I had a slide in my presentation at FMS about, “What’s the value of your list?” And I was like, “The average US investor has something like $267,000 in savings. And so if you have 6 million names, that’s what 26 billion in change, in investable capital, that’s sitting there and you have their attention.” I don’t care who you are, there’s probably not five people in your life whose investment opinion matters to you, but the guy you’re paying, that guy’s opinion matters to you for whatever reason, you’re listening.

IAN ROSEN: This is what my old boss many years ago used to call being in violent agreement, I violently agree with that statement.

JOHN NEWTSON: This is great, we could talk about this all day because we have talked quite a bit in the past here about the trends in the retail space. But for everybody listening, I do think that what Ian’s doing is one of the few ways right now that anybody who has a media and publishing business can actually ascend up, like you said, into these other opportunities in a partnership that just opens up doors. With that said, I know you’ve been partnering, you’ve been acquiring in this space, could you talk a little bit about that? What your view on that? What you’re looking for? Who you are working with? And just give us a rundown.

IAN ROSEN: Well, the first thing, for the reason I said before, we’re not a typical company that’s acquiring and mashing things together and pushing spreadsheets together. So for that reason, we actually have a little bit different and higher set of qualities. We’re actually looking for high quality founders that have great businesses and great audiences that we want to continue to work with. We have a great group of people and we want to work with people that are excited in building and are ready for that next step and are just generally creative and excited to built things, so that’s in terms of the people.

IAN ROSEN: In terms of the companies. Obviously, retail is more important than institutional although, there are a couple that have certain blends. I think we don’t, we used to have more of a bias towards sites versus newsletters, but I think that’s changed actually, because the way like email lists to your point John, it’s a different model, we can do all kinds of different things with so it does particularly matter to us. What matters is that the audience size is significant, that the quality of the audience and the quality of the list, we’re very much attuned to being on the right side of doing what’s best for our users. And anyone we would work with or acquire is going to be well known in our industry or known in our industry for doing that and we dig into that a fair amount. Least of which, because our investors are very, very concerned about making sure that we partner with the right kinds of companies.

IAN ROSEN: In terms of size, we look at revenue ranges anywhere from a million to let’s say 15 million would be probably a big swallow for us, but there’s nothing really specifically off the table, just that I like to work with smaller companies and founders as opposed to bigger behemoths. We need companies to be profitable already, we’re not looking to do turnarounds or fixes. So things that either have or could have on day one, 20 plus percent margin, including with the founder being there. But that said, we don’t do things really bespoke, but we’re also not TCJ. We’re just a group of folks just looking to grab the right people together. We’re going to do another, I’d say, 10 deals this year. We did four in our first half of… We started basically in May of ’21. We did four deals before December so I think we’re going to accelerate a little bit.

JOHN NEWTSON: Nice. For everyone out there then, you’re looking to do 10 more deals, acquire companies in the 1 to 15 million range-

IAN ROSEN: In 2022, we’ll do more then.

IAN ROSEN: Over the next year, over the next 12 months. And so obviously, we’re open to taking calls from anybody who wants an introduction to Ian, just hit me up, you have my address or text me for those of you have my number, I’m happy to make an introduction. I’m really excited about what TIFIN is doing and what you guys are doing and so I’m going to be working with you guys to just try and find companies to help join this group because for most of the other people in the space that I’ve talked to, and I’ve talked to a lot of guys now, who are trying to figure out things with the broker dealer and publishing model, trying to figure out platforms and all this stuff. I haven’t seen anybody who is already operating, already has the infrastructure that you have, already has all this opportunity that you guys have. I think that you do, you represent the premier opportunity, I think for publishers in that range to participate in what is probably the biggest trend to hit our industry.

IAN ROSEN: I agree with that. Frankly, reciprocally, I think you’re one of the smarter people that I talk to in this industry and I’m excited to hopefully do more with you. Look, this is an opportunity for all of us, you want to transform things, you want to take that next step, build up, work with super smart people, be creative, this is my dream job to be doing what I’m doing right now, honest to God. And I tell Vinay that all the time. So I think that to have the intersection of financial media, financial services and technology, it’s a tough little corner, but it’s the best corner for us right now and that’s where we fit.

JOHN NEWTSON: That’s awesome. Well, I appreciate you taking the time to do this and I think everyone out there, like I said, you’re going to be hearing a lot more from Ian and from Financial Answers and TIFIN over the next 12 months. The rumor mills already, you can hear it when somebody gets acquired, it just goes like wildfire through the back channel. And so I’ve been hearing your name popping up all over the place and I’m excited to see where this goes.

IAN ROSEN: A VC one said to me, when I was raising for my first company, he said, “This is the T-shirt that you want, this is T-shirt that you want.” I want to make sure that we’re the T-shirt that people want.

JOHN NEWTSON: Oh, that’s great. All right, Ian. Well, this was awesome, I appreciate it and thanks so much for doing this.

IAN ROSEN: Yeah, thanks John, I appreciate it.

About Ian Rosen

Ian Rosen, CEO of FinancialAnswers, has spent 25-yeras at the intersection of financial services, technology, and media as a founder, operator, and investor.

His experience helping financial services firms build tools to better integrate financial data combined with consumer media experience lead Ian to become General Manager of MarketWatch Inc., a global multi-channel financial media powerhouse.

He then founded Even Financial, a premier platforms providing customizable financial product offers.

Then Ian left to become CEO of Stocktwits In., the largest investing & trading social network. While there he launched Trade App, the first FINRA approved broker-dealer with social features.

Request a personal introduction:

We’re happy to make direct connections to Ian to qualified persons.

To request a personal introduction please visit our contact us page to send us a message.