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How Signal is ‘obsessed with finding a better way’ to retire—and work

How Signal is ‘obsessed with finding a better way’ to retire—and work

Revolutionizing a financial industry can be tough work, but for this Detroit startup innovation is at the heart of everything they do. 

Signal Advisors is a software startup that helps financial advisors grow their businesses, with the ultimate goal of supporting Americans on their journey to retirement. But they’re not your typical IMO. 

signal-advisors-officeSignal Advisors headquarters, located in the heart of Detroit

Financial Advisors use IMOs (independent marketing organizations) to help them get more clients and grow their business. They’re old institutions that haven’t seen much innovation. Until Signal came along. 

Signal Advisors is doing things differently by using technology to help financial advisors run their business so they can better serve their clients. The platform provides marketing, coaching services and other tech tools to help advisors focus on what matters: the financial wellness of their clients. 

Only 28% of Americans have a financial plan, and 69% don’t work with financial advisors. That means there’s a lot of folks out there who aren’t planning for their financial futures. And the COVID-19 pandemic changed how financial advisors traditionally got new clients, and also put financial stability into the spotlight for many Americans during this unpredictable time. 

The comprehensive platform Signal has built has proven to be an innovative and effective way to support advisors and their clients during this challenging time. It has also given advisors a way to target new clients who may not have traditionally had access to a financial advisor.

It’s all about helping the folks who are helping people save for retirement, a time when you’re not making any money and need that nest egg to support you.

Founded in Detroit in 2020 by Patrick Kelly, Jake Cohen and Kevin O’Hara, Signal is a remote-first startup that is rapidly scaling with over 105 team members — and growing! 

signal-advisors-foundersSignal’s co-founders Jake Cohen, Patrick Kelly, and Kevin O’Hara

“At first the thought of working at an insurance-related startup wasn’t the most exciting,” said Kristina Oberly, Head of People at Signal. “But then I learned more about the company and its great mission. We’re not just doing the same old thing that everyone else has been doing. There’s more to us than meets the eye.”


Mission-driven, culture-first

With a mix of startup and tech pros plus financial-industry experts, Signal has a unique — and original — culture. 

“The team has a really unique blend of people and experiences,” said Kristina. “It brings together starkly different perspectives which leads to constant innovation. No one can assume anything because views are always being challenged.”

Innovation is really at the heart of everything Signal does, and it goes back to their core values.

Own It

signal-advisors-culture-own itEveryone on the team takes initiative and responsibility to move the business forward. Kristina said she sees this in action every day at the company. On her own people ops team, she sees folks stepping up to develop resources for one-on-one meetings or onboarding. She sees people holding themselves accountable to finding new solutions and sharing them with the team. 

“There are so many opportunities to raise your hand and take ownership of something,” Kristina said. “And we really encourage our team to grab those opportunities.”


The Inches We Need Are All Around Us

The Signal team believes that even the smallest things can have a big impact. It’s all about finding those inches.  

“Making progress on audacious goals can feel daunting,” Kristina said. “So we ask ourselves, ‘What are the 1-3 things you can do right now to improve the experience for a client or team member?’”

Signal team members are known to go out of their way to help clients who are facing challenges, even when it goes beyond the scope of their day-to-day responsibilities. Taking those extra steps means building stronger relationships and fostering a culture centered on trust and compassion. 


Obsessed with finding a better way

“That’s the one that drives everything we do,” Kristina said. “Every person on our team is obsessed with finding a better way — being better for customers and also better for each other.” 

This attitude drives innovation. It’s also where that startup mindset meets industry expertise: how can we improve this outdated process?

It’s something everyone at the company asks themselves, especially the founders.

“Our founders are the biggest champions of our values, which is so important,” Kristina said. “They are not just values on a piece of paper.”

You’ll find everyone at Signal, but especially the founders, really using the language of their values to give feedback and recognition. 

“Pat, Jake and Kevin know these values will help us succeed, and it’s critical that they help create this shared language for the team,” Kristina said.


Building a Better Workplace

Being obsessed with finding a better way leads to favorable outcomes not just for the customer. It’s also the driving force behind Signal’s mission to build a better workplace. 

Kristina and the people team have rolled out many new benefits that always put people first. It’s why they are a top company with the best benefits, and also a great company for work-life balance

Here are some of their top benefits: 

  • Wellness Stipend: Signal’s wellness program provides a $1,200 annual stipend for team members to use toward their mental and physical wellbeing. This could be used for a gym membership, therapy or counseling, childcare, exercise equipment, meditation apps and more.

  • Learning Stipend: Signal provides an annual stipend to each team member to go toward learning and development opportunities like trainings, conferences, subscriptions, and membership to professional orgs.

  • Unlimited Paid Vacation: All full-time team members are eligible for unlimited paid vacation. Signal believes that time away from work is critical for personal satisfaction and mental health. Team members are required to take at minimum 3 weeks (15 business days) of paid vacation each calendar year.

  • Paid Health Days: All full-time team members are eligible for 10 paid health days each calendar year. You might be used to calling these “sick days,” but at Signal they are called “health days.” Health days are not meant to limit the time you can take for your health. Rather, Signal wants team members to feel like they can take time for their health AND still go on fun vacations. There's room for both!

  • Paid Holidays + Personal Significance Days: Signal encourages team members to take two days to observe days of personal significance each calendar year that may not be embodied in their company-wide holidays.

  • Summer Fridays: Extra time off on Fridays in the summer to enjoy sun and fun!

Signal is also a remote-first company. There are still quite a few members in the Detroit area, but being hybrid is not an expectation. The office is available for those who want to be away from home or connect with others on the team. Once a year, the company brings everyone in-person to Detroit for a team retreat.

As a remote team, communication is hyper-critical, and the Signal team is very focused on how they communicate with intentionality, respect others’ time and PTO, and set expectations about availability.

“We really want to support a flexible work environment for team members, and the way that’s lived out is by managers managing people, not their time,” Kristina said. “It’s all about leading with humanity first. And also putting our money where our mouth is in supporting our employees.”


Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging

Building a better workplace has to include building an inclusive workplace, so DEIB remains top of mind for the Signal team. Bringing in diverse candidates is so important for the team, and it’s also important to make sure the company represents the people they want to serve.

From a recruiting perspective, Kristina said it’s all about being intentional about the process, and recognizing that there’s a lot of work to do. 

Kristina said the DEIB committee has been great for shepherding ideas about DEIB and communicating priorities to the leadership team. And it’s not just a committee for the people ops team, though she and Sr. Recruiter Chad Nieswand are on it. But so are lots of people from different teams and experiences, and it’s a great way to bring all kinds of voices together. 


Again, it goes back to that value of owning it. It’s not one person’s responsibility, but everyone’s place to take part in creating not just a great product but a great place to work.

If you’re looking to be a part of a mission-driven, people-first organization, check out open jobs at Signal and apply now.