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Money management

Best Places to Work Winner: WAMCO

Pasadena, Calif. | Founded in 1971 | 900 employees | Ranks 5th among companies with 100-1,000 employees.

WAMCO Kickoff
WAMCO hosts a College Football Opening Day Event in the firm’s café called The Bond Market. Employees wear their college shirts and caps and the menu that day is a tailgate theme.

At Western Asset Management Co., top executives expect you will do a great job, but don't be too egotistical about it.

That big ego could get you fired from the fixed-income money manager.

“We hire hard-working people; people who don't take themselves too seriously,” said Paul White, senior vice president, human resources.

At Western Asset, the largest affiliate of Legg Mason (LM) Inc. (LM), employees are rated yearly on their collegiality, along with the usual other performance metrics such as the quality of work and initiative.

Mr. White said employees who don't work with their colleagues in a positive way, who are not team players, are asked to leave.

“At a lot of investment firms people think knowledge is power, so they start to hoard it,“ said James Flick, director of global client services and marketing.

Mr. Flick said at Western Asset, the sharing of knowledge among employees has made the 900-person firm more successful.

“There are a lot of people who do not know a lot about Asian bonds in the Pasadena office, but they know they can pick up the phone and call someone in the Singapore office and any member will spend extra time getting them up to speed on this,” he said.

Western Asset has formal staff meetings like all investment firms, but Mr. Flick said what makes the firm different is the extra time employees spend on an informal basis, fostering a team environment that makes the firm a special place in which to work.

“We all approach it as if the firm does well, we all do well,” he said.

Employees are aggressive and determined to provide the best investment portfolios and performance for clients, “but stepping on someone's back” to get ahead is not tolerated, he said.

The team approach extends to everyone at the company, with top management maintaining an open-door policy, said Mr. Flick. Very few senior employees have offices, he noted.

While Western has evolved over the years from a small fixed-income organization to a powerhouse with more than $450 billion in assets under management, Mr. Flick said the close-knit collaboration found in smaller firms has not been lost.

“Less bureaucracy, you cut (to) the chase and talk to the relevant person without any problem to resolve issues,” said one employee responding to an employee survey for Pensions & Investments' Best Places to Work in Money Management.

“The culture of the company“ was cited as a positive by an employee. “It is like another family. Everyone is treated with respect.”

Yet another employee said “the firm does not have vicious politics and every portfolio manager is down-to-earth.”

The views of the San Gabriel Mountains from Western Asset's low-rise office building might create some good vibrations, too. Mr. White said there are balconies on every floor to enjoy the view and get some fresh air.