Jon Steinage 34

CEO, Betterment

I am a Trailblazer

40 Under 40
40 Under 40

I am a Leader

40 Under 40
Leaders

I am a Trailblazer

Trail Blazers

I am an Entrepreneur

40 Under 40
Entrepreneurs

I am a Visionary

40 Under 40
Visionaries

I am an Idealist

40 Under 40
Idealists

Meet the Leaders

Whether in their own firms or in their communities, these young people are leading the charge toward innovation in financial planning, bringing new opportunities to advisers and clients alike. Here, they share the best leadership advice they’ve received in their careers.

Meet the Trailblazers

This group doesn’t subscribe to groupthink. They are spearheading new ways of practicing and delivering financial advice — in some cases reaching populations previously considered unprofitable to serve. We ask them about the most unique and unusual ideas they’ve had.

Meet the Entrepreneurs

In addition to helping clients reach their financial goals, some in the advice industry face the challenge of running a business or a team. Others have started companies to support this pursuit. These young people are flourishing amid the balancing act — and some got an early start.

Meet the Visionaries

It’s not about what is, but what will be — and what can be — the future of the financial planning industry for this group of forward-looking advisers, educators and executives. Their insights pull the rest of the profession into the next stratum.

Meet the Idealists

Life experiences shape our ideals, especially for these young professionals who see challenges in the advice industry and the world — and set out to meet them. They also have words of wisdom for the next generation.

About Jon

Long before Jon Stein's days as chief executive of New York-based Betterment, an online adviser with about $650 million in assets under management, he earned his keep in high school in Dallas by delivering food. He had major aspirations early on, hoping one day to be president, a journalist, a doctor, an art dealer and a rock star. Mr. Stein eventually received a bachelor's in economics at Harvard University and an MBA from Columbia University.

Nothing puts me in the holiday spirit like a discussion of limit orders while gift wrapping @cnew… http://t.co/BBSXEHvCDFSaturday, Dec 13, 2014 7:56PM @jonstein

The risks and rewards of entrepreneurship were calling him.

"I always wanted to do something high leverage, like a startup," Mr. Stein wrote in his questionnaire for InvestmentNews' 40 Under 40 project. "My family encouraged me to go for it, to take the risk. Their support enabled me to take the leap."

Enter Betterment ó a shining example of disruption in the financial advisory space. Rather than meeting with a traditional financial adviser in person, clients who work with robo-advisers invest on the web. These online platforms use technology to craft customized portfolios and charge clients a fee (from 0.15% to 0.35% at Betterment, depending on the account balance).

This model, attractive to do-it-yourself investors, is shaking up financial advisers who have based much of their business on regular, face-to-face meetings with clients to the tune of a 1% annual fee.

Mr. Stein said he sees two keys to success, at least in terms of building an online adviser.

"One, approach things with an engineering mindset: Look for things that are broken, and find a way to fix them. The other is to make things real as soon as possible. If you're starting a business, print your business cards, get an e-mail address. The faster you make it real, the sooner you get feedback."

That's a lesson Mr. Stein learned when building his business. "I found no one would listen to me until I had something to show," he said.

ó Darla Mercado

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Fast Facts

  • Punches in a 100-hour workweek
  • Despite his schedule, drinks one cup of coffee a day at most
  • Three top dinner guests would be Socrates, Jesus and Julius Caesar