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When working at a fintech becomes a dream job

Fintech entrepreneurs talk a lot about dreams — digital transformation, beating the incumbents, solving financial crises.

But what about the dreams of their employees?

Some of SourceMedia’s Best Fintechs to Work For say they believe that if they invest in the dreams of their employees, those employees will invest in the dream of their company. These fintechs are giving their workers financial help and extra time off so they can venture out into the world and reach a lifelong goal.

These programs are seen as a way to retain employees and help them develop on a personal level.

“Whatever the heck you wanted to do, there’s always excuses to not do it,” said Laura Lawson, chief people officer of United Wholesale Mortgage in Pontiac, Mich. “We want our people to take those two weeks and encourage them to dig deep and come up with something they’ve always wanted to do.”

When UWM employees reach their 10th anniversary with the company, they receive an additional 10 days of paid time off and $2,500 to live their dream. The benefit was created in 2016 when Lawson noticed that several employees were approaching the milestone.

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“If someone starts with us today I want them to know that this is a hire-to-retire company,” Lawson said. “We’re ready for you to be here for the long run.”

Sharon Snover, an auditor at the company, says UWM’s 10 Days to Live a Dream program allowed her to start a nonprofit that focuses on removing animals from shelters and placing them in foster homes. In October 2016, she used her time off to visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.

“The highlight of this trip for me was being allowed, while volunteering, to feed extremely shy dogs by hand without making eye contact so that they learn to trust,” Snover wrote in a report on the experience.

The summer before the trip, Snover knew she wanted to make a difference in the animal world. Near the end of the trip, she was inspired and set up a meeting with her personal attorney to start the nonprofit.

Now when Snover isn’t working at UWM, she’s usually running her nonprofit, she said in an interview. Through the company’s pay-it-forward program, employees can donate to Snover’s nonprofit, among others.

“I’m forever grateful for this place,” Snover said. “Because this has been my passion. It’s made a tremendous difference in my life, and I feel more complete because of it.”

So far, 89 of UWM’s more than 3,000 employees have taken part in the 10 Days to Live a Dream program. Lawson is considering adding similar benefits once employees have been there for 15 or 20 years. However, with much of the company’s employees having been at the company for less than a decade, Lawson is currently focused on benefits that keep employees there now, such as a masseuse and hairstylist available Monday through Friday and a full-length basketball court connected to a fitness center the company designed with the help of the Detroit Red Wings.

In 2017, Fountain City Fintech, a fintech accelerator, and its parent company nbkc, a fintech-friendly community bank in Kansas City, Mo., started giving employees an additional week of paid time off or a $1,000 voucher to “go live boldly” once they have been there for five years. It already offered a similar perk once workers spent a decade there but the bank realized that younger generations weren’t as loyal to employers.

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“If you look at the workforce trends, long gone are the days that an employee stays 10 to 15 years with an employer,” said Jessica Eggers, chief people officer of the $652 million-asset nbkc. “We wanted to attract another generation that do stay the five years. It’s a nice midpoint to encourage longevity in our workforce.”

At the 10-year mark employees are given a four-week sabbatical to step away from work and “follow their passion.” That benefit has gained 100% participation from employees at nbkc, Eggers said.

“We had an employee [who] has always wanted to build a greenhouse in the back of her yard,” she said. “She spent those four weeks building her dream garden.”

The company has employees report to the CEO Brian Unruh and Eggers where they are going and what they’re doing on their sabbatical so that the company can help them achieve their goals. One employee requested his sabbatical time so he could donate a kidney to his sister.

“We let him take leave, but we said, ‘Don’t take your sabbatical for this. Go and do this, come back and then let us have you take your true sabbatical to go and get away,' " Eggers said.

Extra time away and helping employees to develop personally has a business benefit, Eggers said.

“It’s a little bit of personal growth. It’s also coming back and sharing about their experience away,” she said. “We want our employees to focus just as much on their life as they do their work. We realize the benefits that that reaps into our business — a little bit more energized because they have a step away from work.”

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