How would you like to work for a company which lets you decide your own salary simply by getting the go-ahead from your colleagues?
While betting companies are renowned for competing among each other for the best perks they can offer their staff, Smarkets – with offices in Malta, London and Los Angeles – is one of the first businesses in the world to try out this novel experiment.
“We have a salary review process twice a year and if you want a raise, you can tell your colleagues what you think you’re worth and ask for their opinion,” Smarkets’ CEO Jason Trost explains. “Salary coordinators then give your proposed wage a look over and if it seems about right, it’s practically a done deal. If not, then the coordinators will debate with you until a deal is struck, but the salary debate bypasses the boss entirely.”
A strange concept, to be sure, but it certainly seems to be working out well for Smarkets in the three years since it was introduced. Indeed, the gaming company has gone from strength to strength since it was launched ten years ago.
Smarkets CEO Jason Trust (Photo: Business Insider)
What started out as an idea, developed by Trost and a fellow software engineer, to bring financial technology to sports betting has now flourished into a hugely successful operation, which saw it make over €26 million two years ago and notch international accolades such as City AM’s Leap 100 Company of the Year for the fastest growing company in the UK.
“I was constantly watching a trading market for a presidential election, but I couldn’t stand the interface of it even though I was a professional stock trader with a university degree in computer science,” Trost recounts as his company reaches its ten-year anniversary. “That was my lightbulb moment…I realised that there surely must be a better way to do it.”
Smarkets’ key selling point is undoubtedly its astonishingly good prices: without the margins bookmakers build in and with commission levels at just 0-2% the 10-year-old firm offers the best odds and best returns in the industry.
“I’m a techie and our goal is to bring fintech to sports betting, something which allows us to offer significantly better odds than our competitors,” Trost says. “We also manage to do just as good a job as our competitors while employing far fewer people and I like to think we punch above our weight because we’re smart and tech-savvy.”
Smarkets offers the best odds in the betting industry
And its approach to salary transparency shows Smarkets does not shy away from taking risks and from trying to change the game.
“It’s like playing football without a coach”
“If you think of a traditional business as a tree-like structure, then we’re more of a neural network which constantly changes,” Trost says. “It’s like playing football without a coach… the team will eventually figure the best tactics out by itself and will keep getting better with time. I want employees to care about the whole company, take initiative and not shrug off tasks because they might not necessarily fall under their responsibility. We don’t want our employees trapped inside a small box.”
Jason Trost with some of his employees. Photo: Smarkets
Smarkets has had a presence in Malta since its inception but it has expanded in the past three years, bringing its back-office, customer service and operations departments to the island. It now employs around 20 people at its offices, which overlook the picturesque Balluta Bay, and is looking to hire more staff. Qualified software engineers are naturally at the top of their target list, but they are also looking to hire in other fields – such as customer service and compliance. Moreover, Smarkets offers coding courses to all of its staff, allowing non tech-savvy people to acquire new skills and take more control over their career paths.
“You don’t need to care about betting to work here but you have to care about something”
In fact, Trost’s instant response when we ask him what he looks for when hiring people speaks for itself.
“You must be smart and they must care,” he says with a smile. “You don’t need to care about betting, you don’t even need to be super-ambitious, but you must care about something and not just want to chill out all day. You don’t need to be the best engineer or the best salesman to work here; you simply must want to become the best version of yourself.”