Mortgage

Small issues go far with the staff of those fintechs

The dense, one-page, 20-page company report sent to IntraFi employees each month may not be as satisfying as the office breakfast or comforting as the weekly yoga sessions. But the sense of trust it instills is possibly one of the biggest differentiators in what put the Arlington, Virginia company at the top of American bankers' rankings among the best fintech employers in 2021.

"Each department lists exactly what they are doing, whether they are on schedule or behind schedule, and why and where we stand in relation to their budget for the year," said Mark Jacobsen, Co-Founder and CEO of IntraFi, previously known as Promontory Interfinancial network.

Even after reading the executive summary, some staff members said, "Sometimes it is comforting enough just to know that you know what is happening."

Mark Jacobsen, Co-Founder and CEO of IntraFi.

The differences between a good job and a great job (or a bad job) may seem intangible, but they make all the difference. In the financial technology industry, competition for great talent can be fierce, and these differences can have a big impact.

Transparency is one of those differences. At IntraFi – known for creating a two-way system whereby depositors can hold large amounts with their main institution without the coverage of Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to lose – the average tenure is eight and a half years. A number of senior executives have been with the company since it was founded 19 years ago. (Two of American Banker's former editors-in-chief, Rob Blackwell and Barb Rehm, work at IntraFi.)

The best workplaces also promote an environment where human relationships can flourish and where employees feel valued as people, not just employees. A trusting culture – where team members can feel like themselves – is a critical part of a workplace where people with choices choose to stay.

Creating a great place to work – from home

The nuances between good and great jobs have grown even stronger during the pandemic, as employees were forced into remote work environments they didn't necessarily want or felt increasingly stressed by the intersection of their personal and professional lives.

"This is not remote work," said Laurel Farrer, CEO of Distribute Consulting, a teleworking consulting firm in Granby, Connecticut. "This is an international contingency plan for a global disaster."

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a clear commitment to the physical health and mental well-being of employees has been more important than ever, regardless of whether this means spontaneous days off, surprise packages or scholarships without questions so that employees can be pampered with ergonomic office furniture.

Less important? Trivia, free food, or trips that pull people to the surface but are not supported by the characteristics above – although those activities are still key to promoting camaraderie if it is already there.

Adaptability to rapidly changing situations is one area where fintechs may have an edge over traditional banks. The companies that top our list, including IntraFi, Vestwell (No. 3 on our ranking), and Alloy (No. 5), have found ways over the past year to accommodate their workforce generously and maintain close relationships – replications, for example Personal groceries and office supplies perks with scholarships that keep a steady stream of social events going even when attendance falters, and the total flexibility to take care of family matters during work hours, e.g. B. when transporting parents to a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

"There are a lot of more conventional banks that thought if they put a ping pong table or had a Tuesday afternoon happy hour they'd be cool, but that doesn't work," said Rob Dicks, a North American financial services talent and organizational practice at Accenture. "When companies try to determine how, when and where employees should work and then sugarcoat it with a free lunch, you don't see employee buy-in."

In some workplaces, the sudden move to remote working last March revealed cracks in communications that had previously existed beneath the surface.

"Managers feel united because they've been in the office together all day," said Farrer. "But closeness is no substitute for unity."

That makes transparency even more important as it is harder to tell when people are feeling disconnected from company news.

IntraFi solves this with its monthly reports. Vestwell, a fintech company that provides a platform for digitally recording retirement plans, had statistics showing progress towards company goals (e.g. the number of plans Vestwell would like to have on its platform) are, on a big screen in the office for all to see before the pandemic; These indicators reside on a Slack messaging channel after the company is removed.

"This level of transparency was very new to me," said Allison Brecher, general counsel at Vestwell. Like others on the management team, she hails from a more traditional financial services company where "you had no idea how to make a difference," she said. "At Vestwell, there is a direct line of sight to the company's priorities."

Team members also respond well when they feel cared for as a whole person, and not just for their professional contributions.

When a Houston-based IntraFi employee was badly hit by the February snow storm, "Every management meeting started with, What's latest on Chris?" said Jacobsen. "He was constantly pinged with: What do you need? Can we send you water, more sanitary material?"

This type of concern is not only reserved for those in the midst of a natural disaster. "We do this for everyone who gets sick or dies in the family," said Jacobsen.

When colleagues suffer severe personal setbacks, the company makes it clear that they can go back to work at any time.

The times when I literally cook for meetings in my kitchen? You ask what's for lunch and move on.

Katie Waynick, Marketing Manager at IntraFi

"I think there is an element of gratitude that is felt more by people who weren't affected than by those who were affected," Jacobsen said. "You see that we stay with people."

Katie Waynick, a marketing manager who started working as a part-time receptionist at IntraFi almost 10 years ago, shared the value of the holistic approach to corporate culture in a Facebook post in early February.

"My team assures me that they love seeing my daughter in meetings," she wrote. "This time around, I showed up for a business meeting with an important partner, mostly in sweats? … Nobody turned a blind eye. The times when I literally show up in my kitchen for meetings? They ask what's for lunch and……" go on. "

Treats, trivia and excursions

Before the pandemic, IntraFi distributed free breakfast spreads in the office café on Mondays, bagels and toppings on Wednesdays, and hand-picked baked goods on Wednesdays.

"It's about community," said Jacobsen. "They want people to have an excuse to get together."

Like many companies, IntraFi has switched to virtual social activities, including back-offs, cartoon subtitle competitions, and a book club.

Alloy, a New York company that helps financial service providers get customers on board securely digitally, replaced Color Factory tours and Poconos retreats with virtual events that go beyond the typical happy hours. "We quickly learned that zoom wasn't working," said Tommy Nicholas. Alloy CEO. Instead, the company hired drag queens to teach staff how to make sangria and organized tours of farms and a beekeeping facility.

High-energy snacks and bizarre courses are not enough to create a collegial atmosphere. In a company with an already collegial atmosphere, however, they can deepen social bonds by bringing employees together and strengthening professional relationships.

Tommy Nicholas, CEO of Alloy.

"If you can't talk about puppies, you can't talk about profit margins," Farrer said.

At IntraFi, participation in virtual activities usually ranges from a handful of participants up to 50 participants. However, the company continues to offer events so that employees always have the opportunity to exchange ideas with colleagues.

Nicholas says hosting these events is important because "your job is difficult to get involved with if you don't do so with people you have a relationship with. Having fun is one of the most important ways to act as yourself To know people. "

It might seem counterintuitive, but Farrer says it's important for fintechs to create their own professional atmosphere rather than adopting the trappings and style of tech companies or startups that might seem like a logical peer. Social activities need to match the personality of the workplace, she said.

If you can't talk about puppies, you can't talk about profit margins.

Laurel Farrer, CEO of Distribute Consulting, a management consultancy in Granby, Conn.

"We're doing a huge disadvantage by viewing technology companies in Silicon Valley as icons of cool culture," Farrer said.

Dicks recalls an exercise he did with his own team where he found that his staff were largely introverted and responded better to one-on-one conversations over coffee than massive video calls. Or, says Farrer, employees may prefer their executives to invest in training rather than parties.

At Vestwell, the Welfare Committee, which oversees social events and wellness initiatives and proposes changes to employment policies, is intentionally composed of employees at all levels of the company, including subordinates.

"There is no sense of hierarchy in the sense that junior employees are not valued for their contributions or opinions," said Brecher.

The company's activities do not have to be limited to traditionally defined "fun" either. Vestwell's Wellbeing Committee has organized not-for-profit events such as: B. Writing cards to seniors during quarantine as well as planned virtual game evenings and museum tours.

Healthy = happy

Vestwell will also provide maintenance packages to employees on a regular basis. Last summer they were given a Vestwell water bottle, gummy vitamins, and more than wellness treats. Such care packages are one of many ways that companies can make it clear that they value the well-being of their employees at a particularly difficult time in people's lives.

"It's a great way to remind our employees that we're all part of a team and that we take care of them," she said.

Many companies on our list offer virtual exercise or meditation classes. IntraFi organizes wellness competitions that encourage employees to take more steps or drink more water. Alloy offers an exercise slack group with reminders of achieving daily push-up goals and a $ 100 wellness credit that employees can spend on gym memberships or classes.

During the pandemic, the company also offered mental health benefits to its employees, enabling four free therapy sessions per person through Samata Health, a digital platform that connects employees with therapists. Kim Nguyen, director of people operations at Alloy, says data from Samata Health shows that the average take-up for this type of service is 2% to 3% across the board, but Alloy's participation rates in January and February are around 20% were.

"We have a high engagement rate because we are working to normalize the need to mentally, emotionally and physically recharge all of our team members," said Nguyen.

Health and wellness benefits "are a good indicator of a great place to work because it means leadership recognizes that people are their professional and personal selves in the same place and at the same time," said Farrer.

It also means setting a good example.

"I have a customer who has two times a day without a meeting," said Dicks. "I have customers whose executives hold meetings to communicate that this is okay."

When Jacobsen sends emails on Friday afternoon, he deliberately delays delivery so that his recipient won't see the email until Monday.

At Alloy, Nicholas notes that managers regularly check in with employees to make sure they are on vacation. Or on particularly stressful days like January 6th, when insurgents stormed the US Capitol, managers make it clear that employees can leave early or cancel meetings.

"We took full days off several times in COVID," he said.

Small perks that employees were especially grateful for include $ 120 a month in seamless credits for grocery delivery, a $ 500 grant to set up their home offices, and $ 200 in donations to charitable causes – something that nourishes the soul, if not the body.

The idea that perks should go beyond the office space has been vindicated by a number of companies on our list.

"We have retained many of the benefits that were in the office because we don't see COVID as a way to raise funds," said Nicholas. "We don't want to run out of resources because life is getting more and more difficult."

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