When Anders Jones and his partners went looking for a place to launch their financial technology startup, the trio looked beyond the Silicon Valley ecosystem they’d been working in, ultimately settling on Baltimore for some good reasons.
The city boasted a wealth of talent in both the finance industry and technology as well as a low cost of living relative to many other East Coast hubs.
After working in technology startups and venture capital in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jones likes to say he’s following in his mother’s footsteps by launching Facet Wealth, a subscription-based financial advisory focused on helping regular people achieve their financial goals. She was a T. Rowe Price Group executive who helped popularize 401(k)s for retirement savings.
To make its model work, the company hires newly trained certified financial planners and teaches them its systems.
It seems to be working because Facet Wealth has been growing rapidly, and employees say they are inspired by Jones’ passion for the mission and openness.
“I really respect that Anders doesn’t claim to ‘know it all’ or purport to be the smartest guy in the room,” wrote one employee about his leadership. “He appears to embrace a personal continuous improvement mindset and demonstrates a steady keel, which in my experience is far more important in his role than much else.”
Said another: “He is very transparent and is in tune with what all departments are doing and working on. He is open to getting help and getting opinions from everyone.”
Anders Jones took a moment from running Facet Wealth and raising more money to fund its growth to answer some questions about leading the firm through the coronavirus pandemic:
What are the lasting changes COVID has left on your organization? Can you point to any positive outcomes from the disruption?
Prior to the pandemic we were 65% virtual. Since March 2020, we have been 100% virtual. Employees can work from anywhere, and we have staff in 38 states. With no office or commuting, we can recruit from anywhere and have greatly reduced the company’s carbon footprint. All appointments are virtual, so clients don’t have to take time out of their day to travel to an office. Clients can also meet virtually with their dedicated [financial planning] professional evenings or weekends, making working with Facet Wealth as convenient as possible.
The Evening Sun
Since the pandemic began, we have more than quadrupled the number of clients. Clients embrace the convenience of working with us. We’ve also developed technology that allows them to track, manage and analyze their finances 24/7, securely communicate with their planner, and share documents or any other information.
What has been the biggest test of your leadership?
The biggest test has been communicating our company culture and keeping every employee connected in a 100% virtual environment. Luckily, we have an amazing HR and onboarding team that was able to take our weeklong in-person onboarding experience and reconfigure it to work effectively remotely. Because we have new groups of employees starting every month, they did this under tight time pressure.
To keep everyone connected and immersed in the company culture, we added a lot of remote events and opportunities to connect. Every day we have at least one virtual water cooler scheduled, hosted by different people within the company. Attendees win random prizes just for being there. The water cooler is open all day for anyone to drop in informally. We host master classes led by employees, virtual brunches and happy hours, and contests. Employees are encouraged and supported to suggest or organize other events as well. And we’ve stepped up our awards and recognition programs. We recognize everyone who contributes to our organization and our culture.
In the churn of the current job market, what are you doing to attract new talent and retain the talent you have?
Everyone is an owner and receives equity compensation. We invest in the growth of our employees and professional development: We have a continuing education and certification reimbursement program and have charted clear career progression for many of our roles. We offer flexible work schedules. Because we are 100% virtual, we can recruit from anywhere and employees can work from anywhere.
We offer lots of opportunities for employees to connect virtually across the company: We gather together virtually for discussions led by folks from across the company, mark milestones and huddle in small groups for problem-solving. We celebrate client wins, share advice and chat at the virtual water cooler or the pet-friendly ‘yappy hour’ — all to support each other and stay connected. Employees are regularly recognized and awarded, both for their work and their ideas. We support employees with 100% employer-paid medical insurance as well as some unusual perks, such as pet insurance and free, unlimited use of a [financial planning] professional. We offer all new parents 12 weeks of bonding leave at 100% of their base salary. We’ve consciously built an equitable and inclusive environment, and welcome everyone to bring their authentic selves to work.