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Tickets to Lollapalooza? Perks from the best wealth management fintechs

The wealth management fintech firm Advyzon has a proven method for attracting and retaining high-quality employees — it turns them into owners.

CEO Hailin Li makes sure the company carves out approximately 15% of its equity for its workers — an incentive Li says has contributed to its 3% rate of voluntary turnover. (The national voluntary employee turnover rate is 27%, according to the latest research by the Work Institute.)

“We want everybody to be an owner — not just working for the company, but working for themselves,” he says.

This might explain why Advyzon, a Chicago-based maker of CRM software for financial planners, made Financial Planning’s 2020 list of the Best Fintechs to Work For. Companies that won a spot on this year’s ranking have something in common — they enable workers to have literal and/or figurative ownership by promoting inclusion, accountability or investment in the firm’s mission. It’s a strategy advisors would do well to emulate.

“The advisor force is aging, and the next generation coming in to take their place isn’t really drawn to traditional advisory firms,” says Kashif Ahmed, president of the LPL Financial advisory practice American Private Wealth. “I’m not saying that all advisory firms should have bean bags, but you need to be able to attract them with things that resonate.”

With about 40% of the advisor workforce expected to retire in the next decade, according to Cerulli Associates, attracting and keeping young planners has become a priority. Fortunately, planning firms seeking strategies may not have to look far for ideas: Some of their own vendors are already quite successful at it already. Wealth management fintech companies on this year’s list had an average voluntary turnover rate of under 12%. As planners adopt technology and new fintech vendors, can they benefit from adopting aspects of their cultures?

While the style and substance of fast-paced fintech firms and more steady RIA firms may differ, employee satisfaction and engagement are often triggered by certain company behaviors.

Over 90% of employees at the companies that made the fintech ranking said they had confidence in their leadership and believed the companies cared about their well-being, according to data analyzed by Best Companies Group, an employer assessment firm.

Furthermore, about 95% of the fintech employees said they understood the importance of their role in their company’s overall success.

For Ahmed, who is also a financial planning professor at Suffolk University in Boston, communicating a greater purpose is also significant.

“Advisory firms and wealth management firms do make a profound impact on people’s lives, but i don’t think they sell that part of it,” Ahmed says.
Then, of course, there are perks: scuba diving trips, happy hours or weekend passes to music festivals. Fintech companies on Financial Planning’s list offer pingpong tables; high-end toys and excursions; extended-to-unlimited leave time; and bread and butter benefits like health care and child care.

The Chicago-based wealth management software company Oranj shortens its workweek when the locally based Lollapalooza music festival is happening and offers workers VIP tickets. CRM provider Redtail invites each employee — and a guest — on an annual all-expenses-paid team-building trip to an exclusive resort.

Time off? Some employees get lots of it. Facet Wealth and 280 CapMarkets give employees unlimited vacation, personal and sick days. Independent advisor firms may be loath to adopt some of these perks.

But some say it’s time to adapt to a changing world. “I think a lot of people, including myself if it was 20 years ago, want to work with people who are up-to-date on things,” Ahmed says.

And advisors may stand to benefit from contemplating how fintech companies articulate their vision.

“Tech is able to tap into the idea of making people’s daily lives significantly better,” Jesse Coffee, an advisor at the Salem, Oregan-based RIA True Private Wealth Advisors, wrote in an email. “The message of making people’s lives better in a measurable way resonates with young talent, and seems to help attract and retain them.”

The firms that made the list also create a culture in which employees feel seen and heard, and in which they have room to make their own rules.

Because fintechs are often small — several of those surveyed have 50 or fewer employees — it’s critical that employee capabilities aren’t constrained by rigid job descriptions. ActiFi, which creates practice management tools for banks and investment advisory firms, puts a high priority on tailoring jobs to suit individuals.

“Instead of fitting employees into boxes, we draw the job around the individual to emphasize what they’re best at and most enjoy doing,” said Spenser Segal, CEO of the St. Louis Park, Minnesota-based firm.

ActiFi employees have wide flexibility to set their own hours and the latitude to create their own workstyle, as long as they stay productive.

“The key is ... getting people into that sweet spot where they feel challenged by their tasks, but they have plenty of freedom and flexibility in how they get things done,” Segal says.

But beyond creative outlets, in this tight market, employers must stand ready to provide rock-solid benefits as well, the Best Fintechs roster demonstrates; it takes more than sweeteners.

That’s because young talent has higher expectations than previous generations, according to Laura Hamill, who conducts research on employee engagement and inclusion at employee software company Limeade that promotes employee well-being. Millennials, especially, “are more likely to leave if they don’t feel [their firm is] supporting them,” she says.

The benefits you offer this cohort can be key, says Advyzon’s Li.

“Health care is the biggest one,” he says. “If somebody is coming out of school, [make sure] their insurance is fully paid for.”

ActiFi pays 100% of its employees’ health insurance premiums and deductibles and also pays about 97% of spouses’ and dependents’ health insurance premiums, with 100% of dental insurance covered.

Some wealth management and fintech firms stand out because of their investments in diversity and inclusion efforts. The digital bank and robo advisor Ally Financial, for example, is conducting manager-specific training in geographical locations where LGBTQ employees have indicated they do not feel connected to the company. The firm is also building stronger relationships with organizations and colleges to identify diverse employee candidates.

Giving employees a sense of stake in the company and its vision is key, Advyzon’s Li says. And a flat leadership structure enables employees to share their ideas.

“That’s what has gotten us so far,” he says. “Because everyone has thoughts and insights into how this business should be run. You collect all these ideas and figure out a better way.”

Methodology: The analysis is conducted by the Best Companies Group and is based on two surveys that gather detailed data on workplace benefits, policies and practices.

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TradePMR
Location: Gainesville, Florida
Employees: 73
CEO: Robb Baldwin
Business: Brokerage and custodian technology provider
Website: tradepmr.com
Twitter: @TradePMR

Activity to relieve stress/promote fun: Each month, TradePMR hosts free team-building activities for employees, such as cooking classes, escape room challenges or a diving trip to harvest scallops
Fitness/wellness program: The firm offers an annual wellness fair that includes free blood work, chiropractic adjustments, massages and information on healthy eating.

Pictured: TradePMR hosts a lemonade stand to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
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Ally Financial
Location: New York
Employees: 8,546
CEO: Jeffrey Brown
Business: Digital bank and robo advisor
Website: ally.com
Twitter: @allyfinancial

Unique employee benefit: Ally contributes 2% of employee pay to employee retirement plans, whether or not the employee pays into the plan. The company also matches up to 6% of the employee’s contribution (and sometimes an additional 2% depending on business results).
Community service initiative: Through the company’s partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, employees conduct a Wallet Wise financial literacy session as well as participate in the recruitment fair and awards gala.

Pictured: Ally Financial collaborated with Sean "Big Sean" Anderson and Thurgood Marshall College Fund to create Moguls in the Making, an entrepreneurship competition for students from public HBCUs.
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Oranj
Location: Chicago
Employees: 45
CEO: David Lyon
Business: Wealth management software provider
Website: runoranj.com
Twitter: @runoranjdotcom

Employee recognition/appreciation program: . Oranj buys each hire a pair of orange shoes of their choice. New employees can pick five vinyl records for the company to add to its collection.
Activity to relieve stress/promote fun: Oranj’s “Wellness Month” offers a variety of activities and challenges. In 2019, the company hired a chair masseuse, and the CTO and CEO cooked employees a pancake breakfast.

Pictured: The Oranj team in "The Bleachers," a communal gathering place in their office where they discuss product updates, new strategies and weekend plans.
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Advyzon
Location: Chicago
Employees: 27
CEO: Hailin Li
Business: Wealth management customer relationship management software
Website: www.advyzon.com
Twitter: @advyzon

Career development/training program: The company offers tuition reimbursement for advanced or postgraduate degrees and reimburses employees for attending business education workshops and conferences.
Activity to relieve stress/promote fun: There is an office pingpong table, company-hosted happy hours and team outings twice per year.

Pictured: A group of Advyzon employees enjoy a dinner out together.
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PeerStreet
Location: El Segundo, California
Employees: 193
CEO: Brew Johnson
Business: Alternative investing platform
Website: www.peerstreet.com
Twitter: @PeerStreet

Career development/training program: Selected employees can take part in a a leadership development program, which offers bi-weekly sessions on topics designed to help accelerate their careers and further develop their professional skills.
Family-friendly benefit: The company provides employees with back-up child or elder care if an employee's regular caregiver is unexpectedly unavailable

Pictured: PeerStreet employees at a gym class together before heading into the office in the morning.
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Facet Wealth
Location: Baltimore
Employees: 116
CEO: Anders Jones
Business: Digital wealth management platform
Website: https://www.facetwealth.com/
Twitter: @FacetWealth

Unique employee benefit: Employees have access to free advice from a company-employed certified financial planner.
Activity to relieve stress/promote fun: Employees can bring their pets to work. Favorite animals include the company’s Chief Barking Officer, named Moo, and a Director of Strategic Vision named Gambit

Pictured: Employees with Moo, the Chief Barking Officer.
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280 CapMarkets
Location: San Francisco
Employees: 58
CEO: Gurinder Ahluwalia
Business: Municipal and corporate bond marketplace for advisors and institutions
Website: 280capmarkets.com
Twitter: @280capmarkets

Fitness/wellness program: The company building offers employees complimentary gym access, yoga classes, a coffee bar and massages.
Employee recognition/appreciation program: Employees have flexible work schedules, as well as unlimited vacation, personal and sick days.


Pictured: 280 CapMarkets' annual summer BBQ at CEO Gurinder Ahluwalia's residence
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Redtail Technology
Location: Sacramento, California
Employees: 97
CEO: Brian McLaughlin
Business: Software for wealth management CRM
Website: corporate.redtailtechnology.com/
Twitter: @RedtailCRM

Popular with employees: Each employee and a guest is invited to an all-expenses-paid annual team building trip to an exclusive resort.
Community service initiative: Employees receive up to 24 hours of paid time every year to volunteer in any way they choose.

Pictured: Redtail employees attend their annual team-building retreat in 2018 in Austin, Texas.
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Snappy Kraken
Location: Ormond Beach, Floria
Employees: 28
CEO: Robert Sofia
Business: Digital marketing for financial services
Website: www.snappykraken.com
Twitter: @snappykraken

Career development/training program: Employees receive an annual $1,000 education allowance to take classes, learn something new, follow a personal passion or further a skill.
Employee recognition/appreciation program: The company keeps "dreamboards" — vision boards that visually capture each teammate's personal aspirations. Each year, the company commits to financially supporting an employee's dream.

Pictured: The Snappy Kraken team gathers in Clearwter, Fla., for their first client meeting in 2016.
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Actifi
Location: St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Employees: 16
CEO: Spenser Segal
Business: Advisor technology platform for financial services companies
Website: www.actifi.com
Twitter: @Actifi

Fitness/wellness program: An employee leads a meditation once a week for other colleagues.
Employee recognition/appreciation program: Each December, the CEO conducts an end-of-year review with every employee, after which he awards them them a gift card based on years of service as well as position. Throughout the year, employees who demonstrate a stated company value are named in company meetings, awarded a $10 gift card and placed in a drawing for a monthly executive parking spot.


Pictured: The company an employee appreciation event at an escape room.
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YCharts
Location: Chicago
Employees: 52
CEO: Sean Brown
Business: Financial data research platform
Website: ycharts.com
Twitter: @ycharts

Activity to relieve stress/promote fun: One or two employees give a presentation on a fun, personal topic on a weekly basis
Popular with employees: The company participates in intramural sports leagues against other tech companies in Chicago, including kickball, soccer, flag football and bowling clubs. Any proceeds go to the local charity, Off the Street Club.

Pictured: YCharts' annual tradition of taking over a section of the bleachers at the Chicago Cubs game.