Newfront’s Culture of Innovation Inspired Zach Nelson to Take a Leap
Published October 14, 2023
The long-time Fidelity employee joined Newfront’s esteemed Retirement Services team in August
Zach Nelson took a position at Fidelity Investments right after graduating with a degree in finance—and stayed for nearly two decades. As a father of three, it took a powerful magnetic pull for him to consider leaving a stable position at a company he loved. But as managing director, he often had the opportunity to partner with Newfront’s Retirement Services team. Zach found himself constantly impressed with their attention to detail, benchmarking capabilities, and more. “They were also just fun to work with,” he says in a nod to Newfront’s Work, Love, Play ethos.
After seeing an opportunity to join the team, Zach surprised himself, taking the leap and joining Newfront Retirement Services as an Account Executive. “I have zero regrets,” he says. “A big piece of why is that the future at Newfront is really exciting. Our technology is not only groundbreaking, but I think it’s going to lead to continued growth like we have seen over the last several years.”
Innovation vs. Reliability
Zach had many job offers over the last few years but finally decided to take the one at Newfront because of the way innovation is valued at the company. Since arriving at Newfront, one of the most exciting aspects has been the open lines of communication between executives, producers, and the in-house tech team—everyone is aligned in their desire to be innovative. “It’s been very eye-opening for me,” he says. “I’ll ask, ‘Hey, do we have a process for this?’ Or: ‘Have we thought about that?’ And instead of hearing: ‘Yeah, we have thought about it, but stay on this highway,’ It's been: ‘Tell us more about your thinking.’ And: ‘Let’s see if we can fix that.’”
“One big difference at Newfront is that we are all pulling in the same direction, and all have skin in the game,” he continues. “Not all shops offer equity, and Newfront offers equity across the board. We are all owners.”
According to Zach, the key to building the future of Retirement Services is balancing “Innovation versus Reliability.” The long-term investment lineups that are stable for 20 or 30 years are what most companies have come to expect, trust, and love. But Zach and the Newfront team have become obsessed with asking the question: “What are things that have been stuck? What are things that aren’t working?” That’s where innovation can take place.
From fine-tuning their powerful in-house benchmarking approach to thinking through how the employees can better understand their choices within their plans, or finding provisions that may have been set up 15 years earlier by another provider that just aren’t the best-in-class for a modern company, the Newfront team is continuously improving. “We obsess over not just retirement, but our clients,” Zach says. “We don’t just think about them a few times a year during their investment reviews. We think about them 24x7, consistently trying to raise the bar.”
“I don’t think innovation is about trying to rock the ship in some of the basic fundamentals of what people are doing. Most people are doing the core things you need to be doing,” he continues. “But through better design and with tech-empowered tools, we can streamline the peripheral things that are wasting time and keeping employees from maximizing their 401K returns.”
A Work From Home Pro
For Zach, the actual physical transition from Fidelity to Newfront was no sweat—he’s been working from home since before Covid. He’s one of two Newfronters based out in Utah; the only real disadvantage is that almost no one has figured out the Mountain Time Zone.
But he’s liked the strange digital intimacy that everyone else joining him in becoming remote workers has given to his day. He used to be on the phone all day from his garage-floor office; now, he’s on Zoom, getting to talk face-to-face and seeing a slice of the person’s life behind them. “Cats walking around, kids yelling, a Minnesota Vikings flag on their wall,” he says. “Technology like Zoom has been a blessing because you see a real person—not a buttoned-up employee at their desk.”
Of course, there are also downsides to this remote era. This summer, with three kids between 10 and 15 running around, the home office can be just a little bit hectic. He thought an “On Air” sign on his office door would be enough to keep the kids quiet, but the 10-year-old would still barge in. So, Zach decamped for the motorhome that the Nelsons park in the backyard.
From his backyard motorhome, he has quickly become an indispensable member of the Newfront Retirement Services team. And he’s loved every minute of it. “You come into a situation where you’re excited. You want to work every day,” Zach says. “You’re thinking creatively, instead thinking, ‘What tasks do I have to complete today?’ Every day, we’re tackling the future of Retirement Services: what can we do to make this more customer-friendly?”
Newfront Retirement Services, Inc. is an investment adviser registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Registration as an investment adviser does not imply any level of skill or training, and does not constitute an endorsement by the SEC. For a copy of Newfront Retirement Services disclosure brochure, which includes a description of the firm’s services and fees, please access www.investor.gov or click HERE for the disclosures on our website.