This content is from: Wealth Management

Alumni of BlackRock, Affirm, Google, and the SEC Join Fast-Growing Startup Vise

The company already has more than 25 employees and plans to have 50 before 2021.

Vise, a portfolio management software company that raised $14.5 million in funding earlier this year, is putting its money to work and rapidly growing.

Since the company’s Series A round of funding led by Sequoia Capital in May, Vise has hired several employees with impressive work experience and added to its board two former commissioners of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Yoonie Kim, vice president of People & Talent at Vise, joined this summer to further develop the company’s hiring and onboarding processes. Kim has more than 20 years of experience in human resources and recruiting at companies big and small. Prior to consulting for four years, she led recruiting in New York City and Seattle for Dropbox, was the director of Talent at Codecademy, and worked for Google, Amazon, and Nintendo.

The mission to help financial advisors build better investment portfolios for clients, coupled with the company’s goal to be a diverse employer where its entire workforce could thrive, inspired Kim to join Vise, she told RIA Intel.

The Covid-19 pandemic is still limiting in-person interactions, a challenging hurdle for potential hires, hiring managers, and newcomers. “Onboarding remotely was obviously a different experience. I had never done that before,” Kim said about her own hiring. But Vise is paying special attention to candidates and employees to ensure they feel welcomed and a part of the organization. 

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Shaun Maguire, a partner at Sequoia Capital, said in May the decision to relocate Vise from San Francisco to New York City was made in part because there was less competition for talent. That has proved to be the case. Vise has grown to 28 employees — four more are starting in the coming weeks — and expects to have 50 before 2021.

“So far, we’ve had a ton of success growing over the summer with people from here locally in New York,” Kim said.

Among the hires this summer was Niki Sri-Kumar, vice president of Product at Vise. A recruiter from Sequoia reached out to her but the company was already on her radar — her college roommate’s husband had just started working at Vise and told her about the opening.

Before Vise, Sri-Kumar was director of Product at Affirm, the point-of-sale lender. “I’ll admit that RIAs and wealth management companies in general was not something I had a lot of experience in,” she said. Although, she began her career as an investment banker at Barclays. 

Unlike some early startups that rely more on hopes and ideas than actual products or services ready for a defined market, Vise had something concrete that impressed Sri-Kumar before her arrival. And, like Kim, the company philosophy was appealing; that Vise should augment advisors, not supplant them.

“It’s ultimately a lot more fulfilling to think about building tech for people, not to replace them,” she said.

Right now, Sri-Kumar and the company are getting in front of as many advisors as they can, learning their wants and needs, and adjusting and planning as necessary. “What I’m excited about is there just seems to be an incredible opportunity to improve our advisors' workflow.”

“The outsider I was several months ago might have said that wealth management was kind of a staid industry. But now, being on the inside, there are so many interesting dynamics from technology, to ESG, to how one thinks about the market in a moment like this, and helping someone plan effectively in retirement. The dynamics of the industry is one reason I’m excited to immerse myself in and more deeply understand where it’s headed.”

Vise has also added a chief compliance officer, Shah Hafizi. Before joining the startup, Hafizi was the CCO of the Digital Wealth division at BlackRock, an executive director and counsel at UBS, and worked at The D.E. Shaw Group. Before the private sector, he was special counsel at the SEC’s Division of Trading and Markets, where he developed standards for quant trading and derivatives.

Vise has also added two former SEC commissioners to its advisory board: Troy Paredes and Joe Grundfest. 

Paredes was a commissioner from 2008 to 2013. Grundfest, who is also a law professor at Stanford University, was a commissioner from 1985 to 1990 and co-founded Financial Engines (now Edelman Financial Engines), an online wealth manager that grew to $202 billion in assets under management.

"Vise is building a new type of advisory platform. The goal is to blend the best of modern portfolio theory with contemporary client desires for customized portfolios that reflect environmental, social, and governance sensibilities, as well as preferences for or against individual companies or sectors. It's exciting to be part of this new initiative,” Grundfest said in a statement.

Vise charges a fee of 0.50% on the assets managed on behalf of advisors. In June, the company was managing $4 million for six investment advisors, according to its most recent filings with the SEC. Since it raised capital in May, assets that RIAs have "committed" to Vise have grown 20-fold, a Vise employee told RIA Intel. The company declined to answer additional questions about its assets under management, or those "committed" to it by RIAs.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the current fee charged by Vise. The company's fee is 0.50%. The article also misstated that Vise's assets under management have grown 20-fold. Assets that RIAs have "committed" to Vise have grown 20-fold.

Michael Thrasher (@Mike_Thrasher) is a reporter at RIA Intel based in New York City.

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