I met the Haven team through a serendipitous internet connection in late 2018. I sat down with the co-founder and CEO, Elliot Marx, to learn about the business, vision, and what was needed to continue to grow the company. I was struck by the mission-driven nature of the company: to create a financial ally for everyone through simple, transparent, and effective financial products. I was excited to work with the company based on the mission, talent of individuals (five employees at the time), and most of all, the opportunity to learn.
My work with Haven evolved into a year-long partnership with the company. I spent about 10 hours/week throughout the year working with Haven and its customers. My role was comprised of three primary areas: Customer Success, Product, & Financial Advising.
A cardinal rule of building a company is to listen to your customers. The initial need when I began working with Haven was to learn about the customers' needs, respond promptly, and advocate the needs of the users to the Product and Engineering team. I took an integrated approach to customer research, customer feedback, and industry research to provide recommendations for the product road map. I built a foundational understanding of Haven's various types of users and leveraged my time with the customer success role to also start monitoring and improving key metrics around the distinct product.
Being the primary person on the frontlines gave me a unique insight into necessary product revisions and improvements. I worked with the CTO and Research & Design individuals to ensure those customer insights we integrated into Haven's goals. The biggest challenge with Haven's product offering was determining the "right" customer to build for. Haven saw success with its high-yield Savings account, boasting a rate as high as 4.0% with qualified referrals. However, many users seemed to be solely interested in maximizing the yield, jumping for as little as 10bps. When I joined, Haven had built a suite of beautiful products that rivaled many of the leading fintech companies. Haven offered a beautiful financial dashboard, a high-yield Savings account, automated investment accounts (taxable & IRAs), and management of existing 401K. Customers asked financial questions via SMS or put their finances on Autopilot, with Haven's automated optimization engine. I worked to help Haven understand the product offering, go to market, and target consumers that were important to growing Haven. Also, I partnered with the individual leading content strategy to craft the product copy and assisting in drafting go-to-market plans.
A unique component of Haven was the ability to manage existing 401K plans. A large portion of users' assets are tied up in a ridged structure of employer-sponsored retirement plans. Many plans offered investment options that hid high-fees and historically delivered sub-optimal performance. I worked with users to balance their risk-tolerance with the appropriate investment strategies. The primary building blocks for customized portfolios were a mix of low-cost, broad-based ETFs, such as domestic equities, international equities, U.S. fixed income, emerging market equities, and real estate. The challenge in constructing these portfolios was the limited and varied options. Some large employers offered employee-only mutual funds, which led to issues with comparability. At its peak, I managed over 75 individual accounts and worked with users quarterly to ensure the Haven-managed portfolio continued to meet their needs. I found the 401K management to be one of the most fulfilling aspects due to the leverage of decreasing fees by >95% and increasing return profiles on users' most significant financial asset.
I thoroughly enjoyed my 12 months with the Haven team, especially the ability to collaborate across all the different disciplines to further the Haven mission. Most of all, I walked away with the first-hand experience of building a company at the earliest stages and meaningful friendships. I am thrilled that the team had a successful acquisition by Credit Karma in December 2019. I hope to work with this team again in the future.