Fintech Firms: The Best and Worst for Tech Professionals

This fintech article originally appeared on eFinancialCareers. 

By all accounts, working at a fintech company can be a bit of an acquired taste, particularly for those who have spent the majority of their career working at traditional banks and other established financial firms. On the other hand, there are many who love the feel of a startup and working with cutting-edge technologies. Stock options and lofty valuations likely don’t hurt either.

Of course, not all fintech companies are created equal. In an effort to identify those with the most fulfilled workforce, we looked at private fintech firms with the highest level of funding and the largest valuations and then cross-referenced the list with employee rankings on Glassdoor. While the rankings mainly feature companies that have yet to go public (via the Forbes Fintech 50 2018), we also included a handful of some of the more established post-IPO fintech firms, including Square, PayPal, Lending Club, MarketAxess and recently-public GreenSky. A few companies that would normally belong on the list weren’t included as the number of reviews weren’t statistically significant.

As you can see in the chart below, the runaway winner is Robinhood, makers of a commission-free trading app that saw a big boost to its user base when it enabled cryptocurrency trading. Closing on a $363 million round of funding earlier this year, the startup’s valuation is nearing $6 billion. Sporting a ridiculous 4.9 rating (out of 5) on 59 reviews, Robinhood is near-universally praised by employees for its strong culture, pay and benefits. But perhaps the most common theme is the lauding of Robinhood’s mission of “democratizing America’s financial system.” The app is widely marketed for new investors. Ironically, the only complaint is that they don’t have a 401k match.

However, Robinhood ran into some controversy a few months ago following a Bloomberg report indicating that it generates as much as 40 percent of its revenue by selling its customer orders to high-frequency trading firms – a common practice among retail brokerage firms but one that doesn’t necessarily jive with their “anti-Wall Street” message that some employees gravitate to.

Tying for second (4.7) is automated lending platform Kabbage, which uses machine learning to reduce the credit approval process from weeks to minutes, and U.K.-based TransferWire. Launched in Atlanta, Kabbage is lauded for its somewhat laid-back culture, including its casual dress code, free catered lunches, beer on tap, video games and its dog-friendly policy. TransferWire, which enables money management across currencies and borders, is known best for its “insane quantities” of paid time off.

Rounding out the top four is cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, which is unique because it specifically targets experienced employees from traditional financial firms. Based in California, Coinbase opened a New York office earlier this year to focus on institutional clients with a goal of building headcount from 20 to 150 by the end of next year. Recent hires have come from traditional exchanges like NYSE and investment banks like Barclays. Current employees love management and working in the high-tech crypto space.

With a valuation of around $8 billion, Coinbase said recently that it doesn’t expect to go public anytime in the near future. The same can’t be said about Robinhood and Kabbage, which are both expected to be publicly listed at some point in 2019.

Perhaps the biggest theme throughout the rankings is that, with the exception of Square, all of the post-IPO fintech firms scored below the average. The worst performer, at least according to 126 reviews on Glassdoor, is GreenSky, an online lending platform that just went public in May. The majority of the poor reviews that dragged the company down to a 2.8 average focused on issues with management. The same story can be said about Lending Club, where employees take issue with the direction of leadership, a lack of new innovation and high attrition rates. “Hard to stay a true fintech company,” wrote one reviewer. It seems clear that the shackles of working for a public fintech company have the potential to sour the startup experience for some employees. Just ask Facebook. Check out the full rankings below.