Careers in Technology: An Interview with Hardeep W., Managing Director, Head of Personalized Investing Engineering
By Jeanie B., Sr Talent Advisor, Talent Acquisition
Hardeep W. is the Managing Director that leads our Personalized Investing Engineering organization and is the former Founder and CEO of Motif, a fintech pioneer that Schwab acquired in June 2020. Personalized Investing (PI) is comprised of more than 200 engineers whose mission is to build innovative products that try to help improve the financial well-being of our clients. PI is comprised of three distinct teams: Thematic Investing, Digital Advice and Financial Planning. Thematic Investing is the main product from Motif which is being rebuilt for Schwab. Digital Advice includes Schwab’s robo-advisory product which builds, monitors, and automatically rebalances a diversified portfolio based on investors’ goals. Financial Planning focuses on offering financial planning as a service throughout Schwab. These three areas come together to give our clients a very tailored, unique, and personalized investing experience. And Hardeep and his team are the engineers behind these products.
How did Motif and Schwab combine forces?
We were always inspired by Chuck when we founded Motif, we always called him the industry’s Original Disrupter. I had met Walt, Schwab’s CEO, and other Schwab executives a couple of times while I was CEO of Motif and through these conversations, we realized we were trying to solve the same problem—how do we make investing more personal, more tailored and avoid the cookie cutter approach that the industry was taking towards investing? Schwab has such an amazing brand, so much scale, awesome talent, and we were on this same mission, so we decided that it would be great to work together. I always joke if you can't beat them, join them. It also made sense at a personal level: our value systems aligned so nicely, we both saw this need to treat clients well, to disrupt, to deliver value to the individual investor. So, I joined Schwab through the acquisition of Motif and now lead an engineering focused organization that builds amazing products, including Motif’s, and now we get to do them under the Schwab umbrella, which is really exciting for us.
What are some of the challenging business problems within Personalized Investing?
It’s exciting because we've got products in different stages of maturity so lots of different challenges. Our digital advice product is one of the market leaders and our challenge is to maintain growth and build off the success of Schwab Intelligent Portfolios and expand into more client segments while continuing to innovate. With thematic investing, we are taking a model that was successful at Motif, and now aligning it with Schwab’s strategy and scaling it to levels that were unimaginable at a startup—with our TD Ameritrade acquisition, we will have to develop thematic to potentially serve over 30 million brokerage clients. Digital financial planning is a relatively new offer, and we are focused on driving adoption and educating our clients on the benefits.
What is the technology stack within Personalized Investing?
Our technology stack focusses on using the best technology available for the problems we're trying to solve, with an emphasis on the skillsets of our engineers and the standards across the company. Our user interfaces are built using Angular, in line with the company standards for our client-facing applications. We have a little more diversity on the backend - we use .NET Core and .NET Framework for our Digital Advice applications, Java for our Thematic Investing services, and a mixture of Python and Scala for our research and data-heavy applications. Using these technologies, we're working on a range of interesting problems, everything from building these themes using natural language processing and being able to combine unstructured data to create these dynamic research baskets. On the other extreme, is the ability to scale fractional trading algorithms to millions and millions of clients and a multiple of that in terms of trading volumes. We are also building and migrating these capabilities to the public cloud, specifically AWS. So, you've got a rich, disparate set of experiences from one end of the spectrum to another.
What is the culture like within Personalized Investing?
Our organization was created at the beginning of 2021 and brings together three distinct teams with their own distinct cultures—Schwab Wealth Management Technology, TD Ameritrade’s digital advice team and the Motif engineering team. Half of our organization is new to Schwab. So, PI’s culture is a nice blend of these different cultures. What we all share is a passion for innovative technology and using this technology to make a difference in our clients’ lives. We are also obsessed with learning and making ourselves better—professionally, mentally, and even physically. And we like to have fun together both in the office and outside—although that has been harder to do with the Covid epidemic.
We are not big believers in “cultural entropy” and so we have appointed several Cultural Ambassadors that organize events that celebrate the things we care about. For example, last month we kicked off a program that allows all of our engineers to get professionally certified on AWS. We also have the PI Sparks Speakers Series where we have experts come in and educate the team on any topic of their choosing—whether it is on the technology behind crypto, or how to pick an investment theme. One of my favorite activities has always been giving the gift of learning—teaching financial literacy to middle schoolers. There are lots of other activities that we do to have fun together: team fitness challenges, mindfulness workshops, or even therapeutic cooking classes—our last one was on making wontons with a not-so-secret-anymore family recipe. Our Cultural Ambassadors are amazingly creative.
What does training and development look like within Personalized Investing?
Developing and nurturing talent within the organization is one of my primary goals. We have lots of formal technology training and programs offered through Schwab Technology Services University for all Schwab engineers. We also have team specific training geared towards PI—AWS training for example since our team is focused on that platform. We also provide management and different kinds of leadership training classes. But the best development happens organically in more of an apprenticeship model—just by working with smart colleagues. We try to throw as much as we can at our team, encouraging them to take on more responsibility so they can learn and work towards their development goals. Our team just loves to learn, and we create an environment where everyone feels challenged and can reach their full potential.
What do you look for when recruiting talent for your team?
We are always looking for talent. We search for people with deep technical skills and who also have great experiences. We don’t care whether you have worked at a large company or a startup. We want people who love to learn, are passionate about technology and innovation, and are somewhat restless about the status quo and like being change agents. Interested in learning about investing is a bonus. Schwabbies are some of the most down-to-earth and nicest people I have ever worked with. And we want people who share these characteristics.
Are you passionate about technology and innovation? Consider exploring a career in personalized investing at Schwab!