Want to know what innovation looks like at SIMON Markets LLC? Here’s an example.
In mid-March of 2020, when the market was volatile at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of SIMON’s engineers decided to run an intrinsic value analysis (a measure of what an asset is worth) of the 25,000-plus products on the fintech startup’s platform, just for fun.
The information offered clear insights into one of the primary asset classes that SIMON — a company that builds transparency around risk-managed financial products — supports, illuminating why financial professionals use them in portfolios. So the engineer charted his results in 3D and shared it with his team.
That was supposed to be the end of it.
But hours later, like a viral Tweet, his fun side project had quickly spread among the entire company. Within days, he was coordinating with the business development team to use his results to deliver a new type of report to key strategic partners. After that, he worked with SIMON’s marketing team to draft a short article to share on the company’s website. At the end of the year, the SIMON sales team asked him to rerun his report and dig into his findings to share in the company’s first ever year-end review.
“Innovation is spurred by curiosity,” Monica Branning, head of people at SIMON, said. “That happens when you’re open to new ideas coming from all facets of an organization, and you’re excited about collaboration. Autonomy is a core part of our culture at SIMON.”
Built In NYC spoke with Branning to learn more about what a culture of autonomy looks like in practice at SIMON, and how they provide employees with room to grow and innovate.
Describe your role and responsibilities at SIMON.
I am the head of people. My role revolves around attracting amazing, diverse talent and then developing, rewarding and retaining them. I am passionate about the employee experience at SIMON, as we strive to ensure that every team member feels welcomed and supported to be their true, authentic self in an inclusive workplace. We thrive because of our innovative, highly collaborative culture. Our goal is to help employees develop both personally and professionally, while having fun contributing to our business objectives.
We thrive because of our innovative, highly collaborative culture.’’
What are some examples of the opportunities that employees at SIMON have to grow?
We give employees broad mandates with opportunities to stretch across the company, rather than narrowly defining roles. It is common to see engineers working very closely with product managers and sales, and similarly to see the sales side getting very deep in the technical aspects of SIMON’s business. We care about individual career paths, and go the extra mile to discover specific work interests and individual strengths to determine where they can have the highest impact. Employees are encouraged to turn their ideas into action and meet frequently with their managers to track development and progress, allowing each employee the opportunity to shape his or her own career.
WHAT THEY DO
Tell us more about the collaborative mentality at SIMON.
At SIMON, collaboration is the foundation of creativity and innovation. Products, sales, operations and engineers engage in small project groups where they work to define the problem statement, design solutions and iterate on improvements. Everyone brings their strengths and ideas to the table through regular design and interactive meetings. We go through discussions and design review before kicking off development of new initiatives, with each team leveraging their knowledge of client needs to help define the user experience. Whenever a problem emerges, everyone on the team is ready to roll up their sleeves to support each other. We often see team members step outside of their specific roles to support another group, help move a project along and ensure successful delivery.
What opportunities do SIMON employees have to develop new skills?
Most of our learning opportunities come from on-the-job experiences. Due to the nature of the work, we put a lot of effort into helping people develop their skills. One way we do this is by building teams that span different levels of experience, so that newer or more junior team members have the opportunity to work with senior team members, and vice versa, to facilitate knowledge sharing, exposure to different perspectives and mentorship. Beyond that, we try to make sure employees have whatever they need, be it books, online courses, attendance at conferences, certifications or even an awesome work-from-home setup. We’ve known that a supportive environment cultivates trust, motivation, creativity and drive, especially in this past year of remote connectivity.
How has SIMON maintained company culture while remote?
With the transition to a work-from-home environment, like a lot of companies, we were faced with the challenge of keeping our growing team engaged while dispersed, but our operations team was up for the task. Leadership came together to repurpose our budgets, and as a result, we’ve been fortunate to host a variety of ongoing virtual events, all focused on bringing the team and our families together. It’s not often we look to our company to provide the much-needed entertainment and connection that we’re missing during remote work, but SIMON has kept us connected with events like wine and chocolate tastings, cooking classes and a magician.
We’ve known that a supportive environment cultivates trust, motivation, creativity and drive, especially in this past year of remote connectivity.’’