Last year, a recruiter reached out to Randi Charles about an opportunity to become head of marketing at Facet Wealth, a Baltimore-based technology company that connects investors with financial advisors and had raised $33 million in funding.
She had never heard of it and had no experience in the wealth management industry. But a chance to leverage her skills and help a company democratize a much-needed service grabbed her attention.
In her first meeting with Facet Wealth cofounder and CEO Anders Jones, Charles recalled a day long ago in elementary school when parents of students visited to talk about their careers. Some detailed day-to-day tasks of saving lives and fighting crime. Charles’ parents, who are accountants, attempted to teach her classmates how to budget imaginary incomes. The presentation of household credits and debits was not a favorite.
“I was mortified,” Charles said. “But I realize now, being much older, just how valuable that was. It was not something I ever thought people didn't have. It was something I kind of took for granted. I just assumed that everyone was educated the way that I was about personal finance. I see now that that's not the case.”
Skilled marketers are needed across industries and Charles said an early-stage fintech firm, at least on the surface, might seem dry and unalluring. Employees, especially young ones, tend to want to work for mission-driven organizations and, to her surprise, Facet was one of those.
“When you speak with the people at Facet and you realize what an incredible connection they have to this mission of making financial planning accessible to really everyday American households. It's a wonderful thing to be a part of,” Charles said.
“I left my first conversation with Anders thinking, wow, I really want to help them build this thing. I want to help get the word out, and I just want to help share with people that this is a service that's possible for them."
She joined the company in November shortly after interviewing and brought with her an outsider’s perspective on wealth management, which Jones was seeking. Facet is unlike most wealth managers. It charges investors a flat annual fee of $480 to $5,000, depending on their needs, for a financial plan and ongoing consultation. Most advisors make money from commissions on transactions or a fee based on a percentage of investor assets. “We believe that creates complacency and it can muddy the intentions of the financial plans created. We are in the business of bolstering trust, developing sound financial plans and not selling you unnecessary products to create higher commissions for us,” Facet says on its website about the more popular fee models.
Before joining Facet, Charles was the vice president of Marketing and Growth at Talkspace, an online service that connects patients with licensed therapists. The platform has eliminated the need for some therapists to maintain an expensive office space. Patients benefit by saving money and time going to and from their therapist’s office. The platform has driven down the cost to as low as $65 per week.
As a whole, Talkspace, which is already offered by many employers and has tapped high-profile users like Olympian Michael Phelps to help promote it, is making therapy more accessible to more people, in part thanks to Charles.
The same can be done with Facet and financial planning, she said. Perhaps even with its own client testimonials, which the SEC recently proposed allowing.
“Very similar to Facet, you're using technology to pair someone with a human-led service, or interaction. I would say the biggest commonality between the two businesses is this concept of democratizing access.”
Charles is leading a team of three “all-star” employees at Facet who were there before she joined and built a good foundation for marketing the business, she said. Her position is a new one and she’s been tasked with leading the group, growing existing and new marketing channels for Facet.
She is working on developing different content – blog posts, audio, videos, social media and ads – tailored to more specific audiences to boost effectiveness. A high-level example would be instead of content or ads showcasing Facet generally, creating things with advisors and investors in mind, respectively.
Companies can also benefit from customizing content and ads even further. In the case of Facet, most prospective advisors and investors probably use some form of social media, but Facet will begin thoughtfully engaging them differently depending on the platform. A company, and its overall mission or message, might be the same but how one conveys that on Facebook can differ from Instagram, LinkedIn or in ads, like those that appear in Google and other search engine results.
“When digital first got really big it was so exciting because there were all these new ways, and cheap ways, for you to get in front of users, fast, and a lot of them,” Charles said.
But things have changed.
“As the digital landscape has evolved, people now have the ability to curate more and more of the content. So, it definitely is a challenge to segment your audience. That's something that I think experience in a variety of channels brings to the table, is the ability to target them.”
While working for Hilton, Charles did that for multiple brands in the hotel company’s portfolio that includes the Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and more budget-friendly chains. There is a Hilton hotel for everyone, she said, and her goal was to steer the right customers to the right hotels.
Similarly, at Facet, she hopes to guide investors to the right advisors. However, most investors and advisors have probably never heard of Facet and unlike hotels, there’s no opportunity for people to familiarize themselves with it by chance.
Charles isn’t deterred by Facet’s low profile. Before joining Talkspace, she spent a year as head of Digital Acquisition for Blue Apron, where her job was to get prospective customers to sign up for the meal kit service. Blue Apron has struggled since its initial public offering in 2017, perhaps because an estimated 72% of subscribers cancelled the service within six months.
Joining Blue Apron at that time showed Charles has a “risk-on mentality that not everyone has” and the energy and optimism that young companies like Facet need, Jones said. “2020 is going to be a huge year for us. We’re going to grow incredibly fast and having some like her on the team is going to be good for us,” Jones said.
And Charles feels up to the task.
“Being an outsider in the space is a powerful thing, right? I'm hoping that it means I can bring a unique and nuanced perspective and challenge the status quo,” Charles said. “That's why I'm trying to keep my outsider perspective for as long as I possibly can because I really do think it all benefits the business.”