Drink kombucha — get results: The No. 1 place to work in fintech

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Even though the CEO of YCharts, a financial data and portfolio fintech company, makes himself accessible to everyone at the company's 52-employee Chicago office, he makes sure he's not the center of attention.

Every Friday at YCharts is “Know Your Colleague” day, where one or two employees are profiled over video conference call, highlighting aspects like what has influenced their career and what they’d do if they won the lottery.

“We've spent a lot of time making sure we understand individuals,” says Sean Brown, the CEO. “We think we're better colleagues when we know each other.”

It’s this philosophy that helped Chicago- and New York-based YCharts land the No. 1 spot on our annual Best Fintechs to Work For (a ranking compiled by our parent company, Arizent).

Employees from the YCharts Chicago and New York offices enjoying a boat cruise.

Brown's desk sits at the center of the Chicago office, allowing him to clearly articulate the company’s expectations and strategy to them. Over 90% of employees at the companies that made the ranking this year said they had confidence in the leadership of their organization and believed the companies cared about their well-being, according to data analyzed by Best Companies Group, an employer assessment firm. About 95% of the fintech employees in the ranked companies said they understood the importance of their role in relation to the success of the organization.

While perks like music festival tickets, gift cards and competitive employee matches for retirement plans can be attractive to workers, employers can’t underestimate the importance of effective communication and employee recognition.

“Going back to the basics is such an important thing,” says Laura Hamill, the Chief People Officer at the employee software company Limeade, who conducts research on employee engagement and inclusion.

EXTREME INCENTIVES
Now in its 11th year, YCharts helps advisors manage more than $750 billion in assets on its platform. It services financial advisors — from small RIAs to broker-dealers — and asset managers seeking to make better investment decisions and better communicate with clients.

The fintech operates as what Brown calls a “meritocracy.” Promotions are awarded for results and aren’t tenure-based. All employees are compensated via base salary, equity and some form of variable compensation — including commissions, a bonus plan or a combination of the two, according to Brown.

Every year, YCharts employees take over a section of the bleachers at a Chicago Cubs game.

YCharts sets clear — and public — metrics for its workers, according to Brown. For example, customer-facing teams, such as the sales development or customer success groups, have a web-based scoreboard publicizing each teams’ goals, and whether individuals are meeting them or not.

“Everyone knows how everyone else is performing,” Brown says, noting that the metrics aren’t meant to “babysit people,” but to measure how employees are improving over time.

BREWS AND THANK-YOUS
YCharts has team members nominate one another for extraordinary performance each quarter. In addition, top performers of sales teams are recognized in front of the company and awarded a lunch with Brown. If they beat their goals, members of the sales team are given a paid trip to New York City.

Personally recognizing employees for their successes and contributions is also important, according to Hamill, although it may not be necessary to do anything fancy.

“An authentic and very specific ‘thank you’ goes a long way,” she says. “That’s something that seems like it’s so easy to do, but so many organizations struggle [with it].”

In addition to expressions of gratitude, YCharts offers plenty of perks. The Chicago office features a putting green and offers kombucha, cold brew and beer on tap. Workers play on kickball, soccer, flag football and bowling leagues against other tech companies in the area, donating any proceeds to the Off the Street Club, a youth club that serves more than 3,000 kids in West Garfield Park. Every YCharts employee gets a free — and permanent — license to the company software and 100% paid coverage of health benefits for their families.

Perhaps a favorite company highlight is the snack order that arrives each Monday — Oreos with a mystery flavor, says Will Ruben, the head of communications at YCharts. “That's usually the talk to the office for about half an hour — until they're all gone,” he says.

YCharts employees run together in the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge in Chicago.

Each year the company hosts a “Pay it Forward” day, where employees are divided up into teams and given cash — last year was $100 each, says Brown — to give to the community in some capacity.

“We've had people who have bought bus passes for individuals who look like they'd benefit from the ability to get home and see somebody special,” he says. “We've had people who have spent time helping at-risk children at a community center and provided some puzzles or balls.”

Brown had been an executive at Interactive Data, which was purchased for $5.2 billion in 2015. After the deal, Brown says, he and his wife planned to take some time to relax.

But Brown’s extended leave ended abruptly two weeks into their vacation when he accepted an offer from YCharts.

Asked if his wife had forgiven him for cutting short his leave of absence, Brown was quick to reply:

“I wouldn't go that far,” he says.

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