Can Good Tech Help You Save for Retirement?
How much do you have saved for retirement right now?
Chances are, tracking down the status of your old 401(k) isn’t on the top of your to-do list today. Or maybe you relate to the one in four Americans who haven’t saved any money for retirement yet. No matter which camp you fall into, financial planning probably feels less like an empowering journey and more like a series of stressful chores.
Maybe that wouldn’t be the case if the world of IRAs and 401(k)s didn’t feel so complicated. At least, that’s the bet Inspira Financial is making. Founded in 2000 to provide custody solutions for institutional investors and individual retirement accounts, Inspira Financial has branched out in the retirement investment space. Over the past two decades, the company has become a leader in rollover IRA services and a leading platform for self-directed IRAs, offering retirement savers access to a wide array of investments, including both traditional and alternative assets.
In this capacity, Inspira Financial has been providing retirement education, resources and tools to retirement savers, with an emphasis on simplifying processes and increasing accessibility. And while the company’s mission hasn’t changed in decades, the way Inspira Financial executes it has.
According to Sirisha Gorjala, the company’s chief product officer, Inspira Financial now turns to cutting-edge tech to support clients along their financial journey. These tools have not only helped users invest for retirement, but have also boosted Inspira Financial’s ability to provide information and services faster than ever.
“Like it or not, every company is now a technology company, from logistics to hospitals to financial services,” Gorjala said. “But I think what differentiates us is how we use technology internally to establish a competitive footprint. It helps our team deliver faster, makes it easy to automate activities and assists with collaboration.”
To learn more about how the established fintech is using new technology to further its mission and fuel its growth, Built In Chicago connected with Gorjala, along with Chief Client Engagement Officer Meg Zwick and Chief Operations Officer Maribel Gerstner. While each leader is responsible for a different area of the business, they all agreed on just how essential technology has been to Inspira Financial — and how it’s allowing clients to take hold of their finances with newfound confidence.
You all work in different areas of Inspira Financial. What are your main goals?
Chief Client Engagement Officer Meg Zwick: My team helps clients reach their financial goals. Some clients are investing in nontraditional assets to diversify their portfolio, while some are discovering, through our search process, that they had money in a forgotten 401(k) plan.
My team has to be high-level experts on multiple scenarios to support those requests, like transferring an account, rolling funds over to an existing account or explaining tax consequences. The scope of information they need to have is pretty broad, but it’s that knowledge base and willingness to help that empowers our clients to manage and control their own finances.
Chief Operations Officer Maribel Gerstner: My mission since coming to Inspira Financial has been to take these complicated financial transactions and simplify them as much as possible. For example, IRA accounts holding traditional assets tend to be less complicated, but the alternative asset side of our business is far more complex. For individuals who use an IRA to purchase real estate, private equity, a hedge fund or precious metals, it’s a far more complicated process to purchase, maintain and liquidate those assets. We are out to make the process of owning those assets simpler and more like owning something that’s easy to buy and sell, like a stock or mutual fund.
Chief Product Officer Sirisha Gorjala: A couple of years ago, the company made the decision to pivot to more of a product-led organization. What that means is we keep the client front and center in everything we do. We’re aligning our work to be more focused on our customers’ needs, digitizing our processes for faster turnaround times and making it easy for our clients to do business with us. We’re also expanding our internal digital footprint and automation, along with bringing in agile methodologies and concepts that allow us to be nimble and quick to market.
We keep the client front and center in everything we do.”
What are some tech initiatives Inspira Financial has rolled out recently? What’s the impact of these projects?
Gorjala: I’ll speak from a very high level. There are three types of initiatives that we take on. One is centered around the client experience, where we look at the benefits we’re providing in terms of ease of use. The second is based on client retention and new growth strategies. Then the third type of work is really more around operational efficiencies and bringing the digital footprint to the forefront of what we do so we can actually engage with clients more.
Those three types of initiatives run in parallel, and each one has an impact on the others. They can be challenging to juggle because we have multiple user types and personas that overlap and merge as workflows change. There’s something new to learn every day.
Zwick: We’re implementing a conversational virtual assistant to help clients get the answers they need quickly, versus waiting for an available agent when they call in. We’re always happy to speak with clients directly in person, but based on the data we’ve gathered from our call volumes, most clients’ questions are fairly simple. Callers can ask the virtual assistant a question, and if it falls into one of our frequent call types — for instance, if they need a copy of their statement — the virtual assistant provides guidance on how to use the self-serve system to get what they need. If the caller has a more technical question or wants to talk about something relevant to a particular account, then they’ll be offered the chance to speak to an agent right away.
Gerstner: A project we finished earlier this year was a feature on our investment platform that allows clients to access funds from their account nearly immediately. They are able to request a distribution from their IRA with us, and the funds can be transferred into their account before they’ve even logged out of our portal. It’s a really big step forward for us, and particularly with Covid-19, anything that reduces the number of physical checks we have to print and mail out, is a big plus. We’ve always offered ACH, or automated clearing house, but the fact that this is instantaneous is an exciting project for us to complete and be able to offer our clients.
What does Inspira’s culture look like?
Zwick: We’re a very welcoming organization. I tell our new employees that everyone here is vested in their success and eager to have them contribute to our mission. That goes a long way, and it’s very descriptive of our onboarding program and new hires’ initial experiences at Inspira Financial.
Gerstner: There’s nothing more fun than working at a company that’s growing rapidly. Because we’re growing so fast, we’re constantly hiring, and looking for talent wherever we can find it. If you look at our employee base, we’re majority women and prioritize inclusion and diversity. It’s important to get insights from different perspectives, and we know that if we do, it’ll help us to provide the best possible solutions to our clients.
Since we are hiring many younger people, it’s important to convey to them that their opinions are valued. We’re interested in their ideas around how to do things differently. They shouldn’t think they have to be quiet because there are more senior people in the room; we want everyone to feel very comfortable offering different ideas.
There’s nothing more fun than working at a company that’s growing rapidly.”
This summer, Inspira Financial was listed on Crain’s Chicago Business’ 2021 Crain’s Fast 50 list and was recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest growing privately held companies in America.
Gorjala: Everyone rallies around initiatives and changes — we want to get things done. Since we’ve been remote what’s helped is that we have an open culture where anyone can reach out to talk to anybody. It’s helped us build one-of-a-kind relationships and get answers fast, which has been important as many employees are new to the company.
Here, you are empowered to make a change and see it reflected in the company’s overall growth. It’s so much easier and faster to recognize your impact at Inspira Financial than at other companies.
How Does Inspira Financial Work in a WFH World?
Since March 2020, the Inspira team has not only met expectations but exceeded them — all while working remotely. While many organizations are still deciding what their return-to-work plans look like, the team at Inspira has it figured out. For Zwick, all it took was listening to what her team wanted. “The majority of my team is happy working from home and plan to continue working remotely, unless there’s an essential need that requires them to come into the office,” Zwick said. “I think that’s great. I honestly see it as another bonus.”
What excites you about the future of Inspira Financial?
Gorjala: The future is bright. There are a lot of opportunities for us as a company. We have successfully pivoted from a scrappy startup into a more mature organization, so there’s a lot of work we’re doing to make sure our processes and internal tools continue to advance and are clearly in sync with our core values that we live every day. I’m very excited to see our initiatives come to fruition and how they impact our position in the market and the impact we have on our clients.