This interview with Rob Allen, the Chief Financial Officer at Uqual, explores the importance of training, retaining, and rewarding employees — and why acompensation benchmarking matters. The transcript has been lightly edited.
We’d love to hear more about your background as a finance leader. How did you end up at Uqual?
My background has largely been in the M&A deal space. I worked for KPMG for a number of years in the transaction advisory practice. Five years ago, I switched from advising multiple companies to “playing for one team.” I joined a private equity-backed industrial services company and later took over as CFO when the company was acquired by a large Japanese conglomerate.
I wanted to work in a startup with more agility, so I joined Uqual. Being loan ready to own a home is part of the American dream, and we’re on a mission to help everyone hear “you qualify.”
What are some of your top challenges?
Uqual has seen a tremendous amount of growth since its founding in 2020. Our team has grown from 2 to 36, customer enrollments have nearly doubled month-over-month for the past 6 months, and we’re up to over 700 paying customers.
However, many of the initial decisions to fuel high growth have been based on gut instinct. That gut instinct served our founders well in their last business venture. They started in one of their townhouses and have built three brands employing almost 150 people, before creating Uqual. Not bad for working off of intuition.
My job is to help bring scalable structure to Uqual and propel the organization into our next phase of growth — My focus revolves around building back-office capabilities in accounting, finance, and HR. This includes recruiting, retention, financing, and all of the compensation benchmarking, equity, and fundraising layers that come with those initiatives.
Recruiting and staffing for a FinTech platform with call center roots has been a top challenge. Denver is not necessarily a “FinTech” or “call center town,” and it isn’t a tier 1 Tech hub so recruiting for management and technical talent is difficult, and compensation benchmarking is key.
On the flip side, entry-level call center employees have plenty of other job opportunities out there. Our challenge has been recruiting candidates in both spheres. We are finding attractive offers and benefits to be marquee talking points, while showing them the possibilities of expanding their careers at Uqual to be the glue that keeps them with us.
Tell me about what you’re working on right now. What are your top priorities?
A critical priority since coming on board in September 2021 has been org-chart related. We recently reorganized the sales team, introducing new Head of Revenue and Sales Director roles, which didn’t exist before. Getting the org-chart in order will help us position Uqual into the future, so that is my north star at the moment.
Another interesting priority has been around what we call “career pathing.” Most of our staff works in the call center, and right now we’re working on ways to train, retain, and reward our call center employees. We’re trying to figure out new and appropriate ways to compensate on the basis of performance, not seniority. We've used OpenComp's compensation benchmarking tool for this.
For example, we recently rolled out a new practice of rewarding employees for training and development. Basically, they can earn money by attending a certain training program. It’s not mandatory, meaning everyone can progress at their own pace, but it’s great for hungry employees who come in on day one and want to know how they can become an assistant manager, manager, and so on.
“Interestingly, the lifespan of a typical call center employee is about 12 to 18 months. Our average employee lifespan is around 3.5 years.”
Then, there are the folks who like where they’re at in their careers and simply want to hit their numbers on a day-to-day basis. We want to reward these people, too. Interestingly, the lifespan of a typical call center employee is about 12 to 18 months. Our average employee lifespan is around 3.5 years, way above industry standards. So, we also need to determine ways to celebrate the loyal folks who have been with us a long time. Again, we investigate options with compensation benchmarking.
How can the High Growth Matters community help you most?
In the earlier stages of a business, the CFO typically covers everything that is “back office.” This means I often get tasked with things that I don’t have in-depth knowledge to effectively cover, such as IT and HR. I appreciate having partners that can help me answer questions, and more importantly help me ask questions that I don’t know I should have.
Ultimately, I’d love to learn what successes or failures other companies have had using certain human capital or compensation benchmarking strategies. The High Growth Matters community is a great place to ask questions and to see what others have experienced in similar situations.
About Uqual: Uqual is the loan readiness company. Uqual believes that homeownership is a fundamental part of financial security and that everyone should have a fair shot at loan eligibility. Uqual helps people prepare for the tedious and complex loan approval process with 1:1 coaching, expertise and guidance.