How are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jonathan Hudacko: We are doing well in Berkeley, California. Thank you for asking!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Just Invest.
Jonathan Hudacko: Immediately after earning my undergraduate degree at Stanford, I began my career as an engineer at Apple. I attended UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business for my MBA and then launched my career as a product manager. During my 13 years at MSCI (a global provider of investment data, analytics, ESG ratings and indices), I was the head of the analytics business. I benefited from participating in annual strategy meetings and noticed that the US wealth segment was undergoing significant demographic and technological change. With these changes, I saw an opportunity to deliver better technology for wealth managers and their investor clients.
Just Invest is my second startup. The company draws from my experience at MSCI of working with large institutional investors who were at the vanguard of integrating impact investing and customization, as well as bringing passive investments in-house. Additionally, my time at Apple provided design and technology acumen. While many factors contribute to the exciting growth we are experiencing at Just Invest (recently surpassed $550 million in assets), there are some themes that you’ll see in the Just Invest product.
How does Just Invest innovate?
Jonathan Hudacko: Just Invest is a tech-driven asset manager. Our technology platform empowers advisors to deliver sophisticated, customized direct indexes, where the end-client can hold individual stocks that will overall track an index. We’ve been able to turn time-consuming activities into quick optimizations, allowing us to deliver scalable solutions with daily tax optimization. This technology allows us to react quickly to event-driven opportunities. I’ve built a team of unparalleled financial and technology experts.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jonathan Hudacko: The market volatility caused by the pandemic has presented an opportunity for Just Invest. As markets become more volatile, there are more openings for us to deliver tax benefits to financial advisors. This has increased momentum as advisors free up more time to reassure worried investors and still deliver certain benefits.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jonathan Hudacko: You talk to a lot of CEOs. As you know, CEOs face the relentless task of making tough decisions. Whether it’s about tactics and strategies, customers and partners, markets, operations and management, personnel, cash flow, and more, these decisions can vary in significance, complexity and urgency, but my decisions have the potential to determine the fate of Just Invest. I have learned to empower my staff, delegate with direction, and put systems in place. I focus on “understanding” and “precision” before any decision. Every person is wired differently and comes from a different paradigm. I want to understand what motivates and excites them. Win those hearts and minds, and the rest will come.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Just Invest in the future?
Jonathan Hudacko: My expectation as a leader is that everyone has a voice at the table. I believe in idea meritocracy, and I am constantly reminding my team that I am open to being convinced and corrected. Just Invest has a brilliant group of experts, and our people are our strongest assets. Steve Jobs believed that it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. I tend to agree. Just Invest will have a greater chance of success if we empower our teams to bring value to our clients — that is the team and company’s primary mission and focus.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Jonathan Hudacko: Just Invest has many industry peers whom we respect greatly, such as Aperio and Parametric. We will stay in the game by listening to our clients and delivering value. Many of our initiatives come from our advisor-driven development process, including our award-winning ESG reporting. In fact, as mentioned earlier, we just surpassed $550 million in assets under management.
In the upcoming year, we’re rolling out a multi-account tax optimization service so that we can deliver “tax efficiency” squared — it’s called Panorama!
Your final thoughts?
Jonathan Hudacko: The journey of a CEO is tough but rewarding. One noteworthy quote is from the book Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (originally from George S Patton): “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” With the great results, we should be able to deliver a solution to financial advisors to better serve their clients and ultimately scale their business while providing increased customization to their end-client investors.
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