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Meet the all-woman team disrupting an antiquated financial industry

Meet the all-woman team disrupting an antiquated financial industry

It’s not often you come across an all-woman management team in business — or in tech.

It’s even less likely you’ll find one that came together organically.

But that’s the case for the robo-adviser Betterment’s new 401(k) business line, Betterment for Business, which was built from the ground up by a group of five women.

“What I think is so cool about this is that this wasn’t intentional,” Jaime Strollo, the team’s product design manager, told Business Insider.

Instead, she said, it was the result of a concerted effort by the company a couple of years ago to hire for diversity. Betterment launched an internal club for women, Women of Betterment, and an even more niche group for women within the technology division.

The fact that the company made that a priority a few years ago ultimately enabled the all-female Betterment for Business, or B4B, team to come together naturally, according to Strollo.

“Someone told me a long time ago, if you’re at a company… and there’s no one there that you want to be, it’s time to move on,” B4B’s general manager, Cynthia Loh, said.

“So hopefully now we’re working in a much more diverse environment where there are women you can aspire to be.”

Betterment for Business launched in January to complement the company’s existing retail and institutional business lines. The 401(k) platform offers automated advice and low fees.

After announcing the new line in September, Loh said, they were overwhelmed by interested clients and had to stop taking on new plans by November.

Their clients span everything from doctors’ and lawyers’ offices to other fintech startups. Boxed, Estimize, and Stocktwits were among B4B’s first customers.

The majority of clients already had existing plans and have switched to B4B’s platform. With Betterment’s RetireGuide platform, individual customers can integrate their retail accounts with their 401(k)s and receive broader tailored advice.

“We’re incorporating your taxable accounts, we’re incorporating your external accounts, we have social security income, where you’re going to live, your spouse’s assets, your kids’ it’s all in one place,” Loh said. “So you’re really getting advice from the whole picture.”

Meet the women behind the push for innovation in the antiquated 401(k) business.
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Cynthia Loh General Manager


Loh is the general manager for Betterment for Business, which means she oversees everything from business strategy to sales and distribution models to product prioritization.

Before being hired in July to launch the new business line, Loh was the director of sales and business development at the healthcare tech startup ZocDoc. Prior to that, she worked for the investment management firm Pimco in New York.

“I think it’s been really nice to be apart of a team where you see women helping women, which you don’t necessarily see a lot of in tech or finance because there’s not that many women,” Loh told Business Insider. “Having come primarily from a finance background, it was primarily male-dominated, and I felt that much more.”

Now that the B4B platform has launched, Loh said her main priority is managing expectations and dealing with customer demand.

“I think it’s just … making sure that the plan sponsors, the participants, everyone has a delightful experience with us,” she said.
Alix Fitzgerald Senior Product Manager


Fitzgerald started at Betterment as an intern on the operations team in 2012. She was later tasked with setting up Betterment’s own 401(k) plan for employees.

“I saw how painful it was and how difficult it was to run, and so really had a sympathetic ear for it,” she told Business Insider.

She joined the product team a year ago to help launch the B4B business line.

Now senior product manager for that team, Fitzgerald works with the engineering, design, business success, and customer experience teams to determine.

“What’s the next most important thing that we can be building? How do we take feedback from employers and employees and incorporate that into our product? And really what does that product need to look like?” she explained to Business Insider.

As a former 401(k) customer on behalf of Betterment, Fitzgerald remembered other providers’ websites as “explosions of information on a page.”

She said it’s crucial to keep a focus on the plan managers and what’s most important to them that is, “What they need to do to get the job done and then get out of there and go do the rest of their job. Because managing a 401(k) — that’s not what you want to be doing all day,” she said.

Amy Ouellette Senior Business Success Executive


Ouellette joined Betterment for Businesses’ team as senior business success executive in September.

A Wharton graduate, she’s worked in the 401(k) and pension space for about 10 years, including at Multnomah Group and DWC ERISA Consultants.

At B4B, Ouellette primarily works with clients on compliance. Essentially, every 401(k) plan must go through some 25-30 regulatory tests to determine elements like whether employees or owners have over-contributed to plans.

Ouellette’s team is bringing automation to that process to help reduce costs.

“Trying to avoid surprises is one of the biggest things,” she told Business Insider.

Kat Yanolatos Engineering Manager


As engineering manager, Yanolatos works closely with the design and product teams to efficiently build solutions.

“For something like a 401(k) you have to make sure you get all those requirements exactly right,” Yanolatos told Business Insider. “So we want to make sure that our product is working all the time and constantly actually does what it’s supposed to do.”

She oversees a team of five engineers, several of whom are women.

Yanolatos said that female representaton is especially an issue in the engineering world.

“I’m very used to being the one woman in a room sometimes of 20-30 people,” she said.

But she’s actively involved with Betterment’s Women in Technology group, which organizes speaking events, meetups, and a monthly Women Who Code meetup.

Being on an all female management team, she said, is “a huge rarity.”

Jaime Strollo Product Design Manager


Strollo joined Betterment’s retail team about a year and a half ago. Before that, she was the lead interaction designer at the startup Yodel.

Now as product design manager for B4B, her biggest challenge has been learning about the plan managers and what they look for in the platform.

“The main thing that we learned really quickly was: Their lives are really busy, and they’re doing a lot they’re using like 12 pieces of software a day, at least,” Strollo said. “So our objective was, how can we make this so simple?” she said.

Her team continually adds more features to the B4B platform in response to feedback from the clients.

As for B4B’s all-woman management team, Strollo said, “I just think it’s great to have other female role models within the company to see people in leadership roles that are like yourself is always important.”

Courtesy : businessinsider.com



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