Facet Wealth, the flat-fee wealth management fintech for mass affluent clients, is re-thinking what an office will look like once its employees feel comfortable meeting in-person again. As for now, much of its furniture and equipment is in storage.
The company, which had already been largely remote pre-pandemic, closed the doors of its headquarters in Baltimore on a Thursday night last March. With the crisis still ongoing by June 2020, CEO Anders Jones decided to wait out the pandemic and not re-sign the lease.
A year after the pandemic began in the U.S., one thing has become abundantly clear: “I certainly have zero desire to go back to commuting into an office every day,” says Jones, who is currently residing in Florida with family.
The pandemic has presented a unique set of challenges for financial services companies and their employees, who have lost loved ones, experienced isolation and, in some cases, struggled to separate work from personal life.
Despite a tumultuous year across the industry, Facet Wealth landed a spot on Arizent’s annual Best Places to Work in Fintech list by working hard to establish boundaries for its staff, re-creating the spontaneity of the office and reminding its financial advisors how their work was helping people.
Employees, who filled out an independent research firm’s in-depth engagement and satisfaction survey, says Facet Wealth has been a great place to work during the pandemic. Here is how its executives managed to keep workers happy, even as the company swelled in size:
Demand for advice is at an all-time high. Retail brokerages are experiencing unprecedented growth, and wealth management firms keep bringing more assets into the fold.
Facet Wealth, which strives to attract clients with less than $1 million in assets who have complex planning needs, has quadrupled in size and revenue since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Jones, who says the fintech is now serving approximately 7,000 individuals. It has $500 million in assets, according to its last Form ADV.
“We’re adding close to 200 clients a week right now,” he says.
Facet Wealth is more affordable than many wealth management alternatives that charge asset-based fees. Facet clients pay an annual fee ranging from $1,200 to $15,000 per year, depending on plan complexity. (The average client is charged about $2,400 a year, Jones says)
The company seeks to keep its prices down by digitizing and streamlining advisor workflow, so that individual planners can comfortably work with about 250 clients each, according to Jones.
Facet Wealth has always serviced its clients entirely virtually, according to Jeff Stein, managing director of Warburg Pincus, Facet’s primary private equity backer.
“That was one of the drivers for us to be able to get productivity to a level where our advisors could cost-effectively serve these smaller clients,” Stein says.
Clients’ newfound comfort with virtual relationships may have contributed to Facet’s rapid growth over the last 12 months, Stein says.
The growth has been organic, according to Jones. While, in past years, Facet purchased “several hundred” clients from RIAs, it has moved away from that business model, according to the CEO.
“It just wasn’t worth the headache of having to manage the relationship with the RIAs and then explain to the clients why they were getting moved over,” Jones says.
Now the company is producing financial planning content and investing in more brand advertising. Facet also started new referral arrangements, according to Jones.
To keep up with this growth, Facet Wealth has been hiring quickly. The company now employees 240 associates across 33 states, up from 100 this time last year. Approximately 60 of those employees are financial advisors, and it’s client servicing team is about 80 people, Jones says.
“Half of the team has actually never met another Facet employee in person,” Jones says.
Though the company has had many remote employees since its launch in 2016, Facet doubled down on its virtual efforts to offer community and rekindle the energy of an office after closing its headquarters in March.
Facet established a Zoom channel open all hours of the workday, where employees could pop in and have sporadic, non-planned interactions with one another.
“One of the benefits of having an office is you have spontaneous interactions, like at the cold water cooler, right? We’re very intentional about trying to set those up,” Jones says.
Jones started sending out a weekly email to update the company on what was going on, initiatives it was launching, and progress it was making on goals.
When Facet Wealth management realized that some employees were working longer hours than they would have been in an office, the company published guidelines, outlining expectations for communication and when employees should feel they have to answer.
The company also has a Slack channel, called “Dreams Made Possible,” where advisors post success stories from their clients about 10 times a week, such as paying off loans or purchasing a home. It’s a reminder to employees of why they do what they do, Jones says.
“That’s one of my favorite things to read every day,” he says.
The fintech has also made a point to show clients their support. For example, there are about 20 clients living in Texas who were impacted by recent power outages caused by the snowstorm. Facet Wealth sent clients $25 Amazon gift cards “to get back on their feet,” Jones says.
As for the office, Jones isn’t sure yet what steps the company will decide, although he says it probably doesn’t make sense to have a headquarters in a single location, with Facet employees spread out across the country.
“We’re thinking that it’ll be some sort of combination of pop-up offices,” Jones says, where the executive team will travel to different places every six weeks and rent a WeWork for employees within a couple hundred miles.
“The companies that figure this out I think are going to be the ones that are super well positioned in the future,” he says. “It seems to me that this is a core competency worth getting right.”