Why Facebook’s Former Design Chief Is Joining A Finance Startup

Fast Company: If anything could benefit from better design, it’s online finance, says Kate Aronowitz, Wealthfront’s new VP of design. 

Last week, investment management startup Wealthfront announced that former Facebook design director Kate Aronowitz would be joining the company as their new vice president of design. Formed in 2008 as one of the new wave of financial robo-advisors, Wealthfront aims to largely automate the investment process, making it painless for users to invest their money even without knowing the first thing about the stock market. With Aronowitz now joining the company, she becomes yet another high-profile Silicon Vally designer joining the finance world. We asked her why finance, of all things, had managed to draw her back into the design scene. Here’s what she told us.

What have you been doing since you left Facebook?
80% of it has been being a full-time mom to my 10-year-old. Other than that, I was involved in the bridge program with Designer Fund, and I offered coaching to design managers and directors. I also just spent a lot of time trying to just help people get jobs: there’s just no shortage of companies out there trying to fill design leadership positions right now.

Any similarities between Wealthfront and Facebook?
Totally. Both companies are committed to design. Both had relatively small teams in place when I joined them, but were committed to growing into a world-class design organization. Both companies like to move fast, and have big missions.

Why did you decide to join Wealthfront?
There are a lot of parallels between Wealthfront and other companies I’ve worked for. Just like Facebook wanted to connect the world and eBay (where Aronowitz worked as a senior manager for user experience and design until 2007 – ed.) wanted to democratize commerce, Wealthfront has a big mission to make investment approachable for anyone. I really want to help them build this fantastic company, especially since it exists in this area—finance—which is virtually untouched by design.

Can finance really benefit from design?
Absolutely. Financial investment seems, on paper, pretty logical, but in reality, it’s extremely emotional. When you look at other finance companies, no one is using user experience to make investment less intimidating. Instead, their interfaces are all just overwhelming, unless you already have financial experience. Design can have a huge role in helping people know what they want to do with their money, and help manage it.

What do you plan on doing at Wealthfront?
Best to tell you in six months after I’ve gotten my hands dirty. But basically, I’m going to pick up what they’re already doing, and accelerate it. I know we’ve got a couple redesign projects we’re working on, and we want to deepen our focus on mobile even more than we’ve already done. But really, when I did consulting over the last year, I realized that what I like to do more than anything is just find these growing brands with a great market fit, and accelerate them. This is the earliest I’ve ever joined a new company, so I can’t wait to see where we go from here.