Wealthfront is the next wave in personal finance. Today, I am catching this wave.
Today, I’m taking the wraps off some fairly big news in my professional life — I’m joining the executive team at Wealthfront. I’m a big believer that the most important choices you make in your career reflect who you work with and what you work on. This is an important moment for me, and I thought it was worth sharing a few candid thoughts on why I’m so excited about this new adventure.
Everyone Deserves Sophisticated Financial Advice
It is special to find a product you use and love, that combines a team of people you trust and respect and a mission that resonates with your core belief system all in one company. I know because I was fortunate enough to have experienced this at Facebook, where I worked in business development and mobile from 2006–2011. And, it is why, when I began talking with Andy Rachleff, Dan Carroll and Adam Nash about a role at their company, I was so excited. The Wealthfront mission “Everyone deserves sophisticated financial advice” is one I care deeply about.
Wealthfront: A Big Mission
Wealthfront’s belief — as codified in their mission statement — is a simple but really big idea. The space is huge; U.S. households have over $30 trillion in investable assets. Millennials are estimated to have between $1–2 trillion of that total, growing to $7 trillion by 2018. And, the timing is right. In the post 2008-crash economy, people, especially younger people, want and are demanding better. It is well known at this point that skill has very little correlation to “beating the market.” This is especially true of individual stock pickers but also true of professionals.
Facebook’s mission, which focuses on giving people the power to share and to make the world more open and connected is not dissimilar from Wealthfront’s. The team here believes in the democratization of personal asset management. The millennial generation, in particular, is a tremendously important one to address. This group will increasingly represent the driving force of our economy. As they look for a trusted, modern platform with products to help them save for things such as education, real estate and, in general, build their wealth, I can’t think of a better answer than Wealthfront. We are building the products and distribution channels to make financial literacy, accessibility and independence available to everyone. And that, in my mind, is huge.
We Can Do Better than Wall Street
I started my career on Wall Street, first as an analyst in the M&A group of Goldman Sachs, and later spending two-plus years with General Atlantic Partners focused in large part on the financial technology (or ‘Fin Tech’ as it was called even in the early 2000s). As a student and practitioner of business and finance for my entire post-undergraduate career I’ve been inspired by world class financial experts such as John Bogle and David Swensen, as well as Burton Malkiel and Charles Ellis (both of whom are part of the Wealthfront team). Thanks in part to them, I believe in diversified, low-cost index fund investing, as well as the importance of excellent tax advice. As I’ve explored personal financial management options, I’ve often wondered why personal financial planning continues to be successfully marketed as difficult, exclusive and time-consuming, which of course is used to help justify high fees. Despite this, and up until recently, I didn’t know where to start.
And, as it happened, I discovered I was not alone. At a dinner with two of my business school classmates earlier this spring, the topic of personal asset management and investment strategy was raised. My friends, both of whom had taken many of the same finance and economics classes I had during our two years at Stanford admitted that their partners handled the family asset allocations. Only recently married, my partner and I had just joined Wealthfront as clients, and I found myself passionately pitching them the value proposition, the most tax-efficient automated investment product on the market.
I suppose it makes sense. First, I invested in Wealthfront. Then I became a client of Wealthfront. Soon afterwards, I found myself evangelizing Wealthfront to my friends and colleagues.
Software is Eating the World
Software continues to eat the world and the financial sector is no exception. Wealthfront has taken the same modern portfolio theory that drives the most advanced financial advice and made it available to everyone across today’s modern technology platforms. Wealthfront’s research and engineering teams continue to bring best in class, low-cost index fund investment strategies to a broad audience by leveraging the efficiencies of scale that software affords us. As experts tell us again and again, the most important constants to focus on in any return equation are how much you pay in fees and how much you are paying in taxes. Wealthfront has, from its beginnings, focused on making the importance of controlling for these addressable and accessible.
Having led much of the early growth of the Facebook Mobile products across the world, I love and use mobile almost exclusively for just about everything information related. Increasingly so does the world. The Wealthfront team focuses on modern technology platforms, versus telephone calls and in-person meetings. Our mobile app is a beautifully designed and secured way to stay on top of how the market and your assets are performing and our web product’s UI and risk assessment flow lets you quickly, and with minimal friction, fund your account. Your whole experience can be automated and available at the swipe of a screen, but the client service team, whose absolute focus is the client, is available to augment your understanding and knowledge of your account allocation and strategy.
World Class Talent
Having worked at Facebook from its early growth phase, I know and appreciate the power of top talent. The world class engineering, product and management teams’ collective focus, drive and resilience fueled Facebook’s surge to the leadership position in what was a huge but hotly contested space. The talent at Wealthfront and their drive to win by prioritizing the needs of the millennial investor reminds me of my experience with Facebook’s maniacal focus on the user.
Prior to joining Wealthfront, I had the good fortune to work with Adam at Greylock where I got to witness his passion for the financial products and services space. I’ve grown to greatly appreciate the role that trust and character play in technology leadership, and the character of a CEO cannot be understated. As an alumna of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, I can tell you that Andy Rachleff’s entrepreneurship classes always boast exceptionally high demand. The chance to be mentored directly by him at Wealthfront is an incredible opportunity.
Great Teams Win
As a lifelong athlete, I strongly believe that the best teams win. I am grateful to the talented individuals that I am joining for creating the opportunity to work on a truly disruptive product, in an industry whose customers are demanding better. Wealthfront has assembled a world class team that includes top engineering, product and marketing talent from Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple and Google, to name a few. Wealthfront’s technology combined with a best-in-class financial research group is the ultimate roster to win for the client. I can’t wait to get started.