An Introduction to Engineering @ Addepar

What does Addepar actually do? Addepar is tackling problems in one of the most underserved areas of financial tech and we’re doing it at a level of sophistication and scale that few can match. All of our clients, primarily wealth managers, have similar end-goals: to help their own clients plan better for the future and make […]

What does Addepar actually do?

Addepar is tackling problems in one of the most underserved areas of financial tech and we’re doing it at a level of sophistication and scale that few can match. All of our clients, primarily wealth managers, have similar end-goals: to help their own clients plan better for the future and make better decisions around how they’re allocating capital. Better decisions doesn’t necessarily mean “make more money.” It can mean avoiding risky investments, like the ones that led to the 2008 financial crisis. It can also mean impact investing, which is a way to have your money pay dividends into things you care about.

The first problem that Addepar solves is this: an advisor should be able to see the aggregate holdings of their clients, down to each individual position (e.g. Apple stock), so that they can understand holistically what their clients hold and make decisions accordingly. This involves partnering with 250+ service providers, like banks that hold the actual assets, fund administrators who help manage direct investments of capital in funds, and brokerages who provide client reporting on top of client accounts. This data can be arbitrarily complex, especially when it deals with convoluted transactions, like corporate structure changes as well as mergers and acquisitions. Addepar engineers help build the pipelines, systems, and tools to enable the teams tasked with getting this data ingested, loaded, and verified.

Before diving deeper into how we actually allow our clients to use this treasure trove of data, we think it’s important to underline the fact that while Addepar is still far from having a perfect and holistic view of the financial system, the data set we have amassed is light years ahead of the competition. We’re attempting to answer questions of wild complexity. If you have an appetite for difficult business problems, the journey we can offer you is rivaled only by industries like health tech and maybe the very high end of e-retail and government. Let’s jump back into the questions we can already answer today.

Once the data is on our platform and we’ve checked it for quality, the advisors can get to work. The tool we provide is like an SQL engine: users can group, filter, and pivot by whatever they want. The twist is that the aggregation functions, far from being a standard summation or count, are financial metrics like IRR or TWR. We let our clients reconfigure and rerun these queries on the fly and we recompute groupings and aggregations based off of the most up-to-date view of the data we have.

An example of the wide array of calculations and analyses available on our platform

The advisor can take the output of these analyses, load them into charts and other visualizations and then into whatever communication mechanism they want: drag-and-drop composition into a PDF document, our end-client web portal, or our mobile app. The customizability and ability to regenerate reports on-the-fly with data that’s just been updated is a key part of what makes our product unique.

An example of the flexibility of our report editing tool

That flexibility comes with a cost and sheds light on our current set of unique challenges. The depth and complexity of data that we’ve collected, the flexibility of our calculations, and the performance that we need has led us to develop customized solutions for our data processing and analytics frameworks in a repeatable, scalable, and flexible fashion. Updates to our data can come at any time, which means that we need to keep data in sync across machines and provide a consistent snapshot to the calculation engine. The complexity of many of the calculations also means that we need to invest heavily in performance optimization in order to run them live against user traffic. When you add in the demands of information security, auditability, and handling growth in our business and growth in our data volumes, Addepar has no shortage of hard engineering problems.

We’re excited to be able to share some of our future plans: the long-term vision is to make investments more transparent by taking the data we’ve collected and using it to help advisors make better decisions for their clients. We want to make advisors more aware of how they’re adding value, make investments easier to select and trade, and to standardize access to investments that aren’t widely available today. We can’t yet share specifics of what we’re planning to build here, but have big plans and big ideas that we’re itching to get started on.

Solve problems that matter

Addepar engineers value, above all else, impact. We have a never ending list of exciting engineering challenges to tackle, but a very finite amount of engineers. That means we gather ideas from everywhere, ruthlessly prioritize, zero in on the challenges most important to tackle and then seamlessly execute. The key byproduct of this process is that our engineers never worry about whether the work they are doing is critical. If it wasn’t, they wouldn’t be doing it. One of our core values is to solve problems that matter and we do that by applying this level of rigor everywhere we can. This can take the form of something as simple as one engineer spending half a day investigating a suspiciously slow endpoint to improve its performance 10x. It can also mean deciding a core part of our stack needs a fundamental change to scale desirably.

We don’t pretend to have all of the answers. We’re trying to do things that haven’t been done before, which is why we value experimentation. Some of our most foundational and important functionality was born from a hackathon idea, or a lunch conversation that turned into a cross-team brainstorm. On the flip side, some were born from a structured, data driven planning process. This mindset of valuing the best idea is crucial for our current slate of problems, many of which involve rearchitecting vital pieces of our platform. For these sorts of exciting and challenging issues, straightforward solutions just don’t exist. To tackle them, we often dedicate entire teams to investigate a variety of approaches and then choose the best one. There’s a large degree of autonomy at play. If you prove that you can do something, then you are trusted to do it, regardless of tenure or experience. We have many opportunities for engineers to try out new things and push their boundaries.

Build together

A large part of our culture revolves around openness and sharing ideas freely. To encourage this culture, we try to create as many opportunities as we can for teams to work cross-functionally, share and celebrate technical innovation, and in general promote collaboration. This is done in a variety of ways. We have hackathons several times a year — it probably doesn’t need to be said, but the best projects often end up as part of our product.

We also have the biannual AddeConf, where individuals and teams present some of their most riveting work, often exploring fairly deep technical concepts. It’s times like these where the high caliber of talent we have really shines through; you’ll be wowed more than once.

We also believe that passion translates cleanly between work and life interests. We have board game nights, hiking weekends, and karaoke outings. Our engineering offsite combined all of the things that makes our engineering organization so special, both on the technical side and on the people side.

Cheering on our teams during the boat race at our Engineering Offsite

Our engineers are passionate, talented, and a joy to work with. They love solving hard problems, care about the quality of their work, and enjoy working with others. If this sounds like a group you’d like to be a part of, check us out at addepar.com/careers. You can find out more about our various engineering teams and their focuses in our Meet the Teams post.


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Source: Addepar