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Inside Betterment

“I Work in a Hedge Fund and I Support OWS”

The future of Wall Street is an important issue to us at Betterment. We talk about it a lot. We see a future for Wall Street – after all, we’re invested in investing – but it needs significant change to be a productive Wall Street.

Betterment Editors

By Betterment Editors
Betterment  |  Published: January 10, 2012

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll be familiar with Jon’s ideas on where to start with reform, and you may have read similar posts about why he started Betterment (here and here).

One of our team members recently circulated a post around the office from reddit.com. It was written by a young employee from an unnamed hedge fund. It’s kind of a “tell-all” from inside the industry – and it ain’t pretty.

The trouble is, we’re too familiar with the idea that Wall Street is screwing us. Fresh news along the same lines gets delivered every day. It might be fascinating but it’s not helpful. So what is?…

First up – there are a number of ways these inequalities can be addressed. One is via serious industry reform, which involves a fiduciary standard and heavy legal intervention. The other is via industry change from within. That’s where companies like Betterment and other startups come in. We believe that through smart technology and an efficient model, we can create a competitive, accessible product that helps people grow their money, while maintaining an affordable fee.

With our index approach, we aim to provide our customers with an average market return. Regular and automatic rebalancing helps us to protect against the volatility that the funds create, and our users don’t pay the exorbitant spreads, because we’ve chosen liquid funds that trade within a fraction of a penny. We’re among a growing group of companies who believe in a productive Wall Street and a level playing field (more on how we do this to be provided in a separate post).

– But back to the reddit post. The most compelling thing about this conversation was that some fellow Wall Streeters agreed with the young hedge fund investor. As the thread evolved, hints of offline conversation and collaboration started to take shape. It suggests that among the highly profiled 1% or “fat cats”, there is also a small (but growing?) group on Wall Street who want change too. Jesse Eisinger, in his article “Wall Street is Already Occupied”, suggests that this is the case. He concludes on a hopeful note – that perhaps out of uncertainty a leader will emerge.

Time Magazine named “The Protestor” the 2011 Person of the Year. It’s an apt choice for a year that has seen revolutionary change (in all shapes and sizes) led by the masses. As we begin 2012, let’s hope we hear more from these whispering Wall Streeters, and less from the corrupt few – who have dominated our headlines for far too long.

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