avatar for Jess Brown

Jess Brown

VP of Design
Jess is the VP of Design at Aspiration, a new kind of investment firm - built on trust and founded on the idea that we can do well and do good at the same time.

Jess was formerly a lead Interaction Designer at Nest Labs/MyEnergy, also a Designer-in-Residence at the incubator, Science Inc.

But most importantly Jess is a husband and father to four amazing kids.

Where will you focus your talk at FXD this year?
Designing for Trust and Impact is very important at Aspiration and this is where my talk will focus. How might we turn fear into delight? How might we build trust? These are some of the main challenges we constantly face in our work.

What do you enjoy about the work you are doing in finance?
The common thread through my life and my work is that I always try to help people. In the finance industry many are just looking to help themselves with other people’s money. One of the things that we do at Aspiration that I love, is to keep the money in our customers pockets. For me it’s more about the human aspect than the financial aspect. We let our customers choose how much to pay us via fees. Also, we give 10% of our profit back to charities. Those funds go to the Aspiration Opportunity Fund provides for microloans as well as mentorship and support to struggling Americans looking to start a new small business that will provide for a better life for themselves and their families.

What gets you most fired up in terms of a technology, tool, trend, or advancement?
AIM scores allow customers to see how their money is doing. It lets you see your own Sustainability Score – the impact you’re making on People and the Planet based on where you’re shopping and spending every day. The industry seems to get excited about the confusion present regarding their rules and fees, but what I love about Aspiration is that we strive for clarity via technology. Our size allows us to be agile and respond quickly to any bumps that come along the way, even something as simple as responding to an OS update.

What do you think the future of financial experience will hold?
I have been thinking about this quite a bit. I thought automation was going to be the future but what I am learning is people want the human connection, especially with their finances. Money supports your livelihood, so you really want someone there helping you. People are moving away from bigger chains (restaurants for example) and I think financial institutions need to start looking at that.

What is the biggest obstacle you face in building a culture of design and innovation or putting a focus on wellbeing? How might the industry solve it?
Trying to solve a problem for someone who has a lot of money and for someone that is living paycheck to paycheck are both very different and very difficult. It’s important to educate the right people and teach them to fish. All of your customers are very valuable to your organization, not just money wise but in terms of their participation in the community. Customers can become advocates for change, helping other people by sharing their knowledge. Sharing little behavior change tidbits via education and community so customers can keep their money longer is one of the things we want to help solve more moving forward.

What would you tell your younger self?
When I was in junior high my family really pushed me into the computer arts because they kept seeing job opportunities for that type of work. I made a few websites after reading through a book and trying it out and my dad thought there was career in it. He knew I couldn’t sell my services because of my young age so he would go out and sell for me while I was in high school! I got to learn quite a bit this way, but it took me a while to actually establish my career because what I wanted to learn was not being taught in the schools. When I was in the classes I knew more than the teachers about the subject matter!
The hardest lesson I have learned is that when you are hired for a job you are not hired to be the boss, you are hired to bring other people’s ideas to life. Once I switched to that mentality things really started to flow. I wish I had learned that at an earlier age.

My Speakers Sessions

Thursday, October 25

8:45am PDT