Behind the Screen: Meet Chris Nicola, Co-Founder & CTO
Chris Nicola had a problem.
Being the son of a respected wealth management CEO, his friends came to him for a referral to a great financial advisor. The trouble was that most financial institutions only cater to the already wealthy, leaving his friends with little-to-no great options when it came to investing and advice.
But Chris is a problem solver. He had taken applied math in university, so he and his wife, Tea, started up WealthBar, so the next time a friend needed financial advice, he had somewhere to send them.
That was 2013. Since then, WealthBar has grown from being a two-person, husband and wife team (with a newborn baby girl) to a 12-person company creating practical financial plans for over $750 million worth of Canadian investable assets.
Chris is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO), which means he’s the man behind the technological experience on WealthBar. Checking your investments? That’s Chris. Chatting with your advisor? That’s Chris. Enjoying the homepage as you consider signing up with WealthBar? That is also Chris.
“I wanted something that had more of a technology experience to it,” said Chris. “Being able to check how my investments were doing on my phone, having a financial plan on me I can refer to all the time, and do some of the tasks at home that I normally have to do at a sit-down meeting.”
After starting out in IT at Nicola Wealth Management in 2001, Chris moved into software development at Vision Critical and later worked independently as a software development consultant. When he came back to financial management, expecting the customer experience to have evolved with technology, Chris realized that nothing much had changed — which he found shocking, considering how much other sectors had advanced technologically over the previous decade. And where technology was being leveraged, it was to take out the human experience, not enhance it.
“WealthBar is a little different because a lot of companies are using technology to remove the human element and offer a low-cost solution,” said Chris. “We’re using it to improve that human element and still offer that real experience with a financial advisor, but at a more practical cost.”
He may be a full-stack developer, math nerd, and Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast, but Chris has another love: the love of fermentation.
“I’ve gotten very into rotting things in the kitchen,” said Chris.
It sounds wrong, but his kosher style pickles, kefir, and homemade beer are so right. Chris has been making beer—albeit nothing sophisticated—since university, and will use his creativity to fashion a nice saison with a hint of herbs and spices like anise, peppercorn or lemongrass.
“It’s fun to figure out how to concoct something that isn’t obvious to make, like mayonnaise or kombucha,” said Chris. “I like to try things I haven’t done before and challenge myself.”
When not enjoying his own brew, Chris samples beer from Vancouver’s local (and exploding) craft beer scene, and recommends anything from Steel & Oak, Four Winds or Strange Fellows. He’ll take a saison or a sour, but definitely won’t be having an IPA.
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Abby Wiseman is a journalist, writer and communications professional based out of Vancouver, BC. She’s written for publications from the Vancouver Sun, Metro Vancouver, and BCBusiness, to being an Associate Producer for CBC Radio One. Follow her on Twitter.