Bridgewater Associates LP's culture is little changed since its start 37 years ago, but it did have to migrate to written tenets when the company grew from 10 people working from the apartment of founder and Co-Chief Investment Officer Raymond T. Dalio to 1,300 people in five buildings in semi-rural Fairfield County.
Mr. Dalio's "principles" now fill 123 pages and are the working guidelines for Bridgewater, which manages $120 billion for institutional clients in hedge funds and beta capture and risk-parity strategies.
For the firm's passionately loyal employees, those principles boil down to “radical transparency,” “honesty,” “challenge,” “collaboration” and “excellence,” said numerous workers who responded to Pensions & Investments' Best Places to Work survey.
“Bridgewater is a no-spin zone,” said Robert Prince, co-CIO. “There are a lot of smart eyes on the management committee and therefore, everything we do here is transparent to employees.”
Transparency extends to interpersonal relationships: Employees do not talk behind each other's backs.
“There can be tough moments when you have to say something negative to someone face to face,” said Karen Karniol-Tambour, an investment associate who joined Bridgewater in 2006. “But because we all are on the same team, we owe it to each other to talk about these issues. There is a real sense that we're all on the same mission.”
At the same time, Bridgewater employees are extremely social and take full advantage of the services and activities the firm offers.
Most of the firm's 85 investment associates tend to make it to monthly beer nights at local taverns, for example, Ms. Karniol-Tambour said.
Given that Bridgewater's offices are located away from major town centers, perks include bus service from Manhattan and area train stations, on-site gyms, meditation rooms, dry cleaning and laundry; well-stocked cafes offering free breakfast, lunch and snacks; and nearby crash pads in a company-owned house or local hotels for employees who have to work late.
Special-interest groups, like chess enthusiasts, crop up spontaneously; innumerable softball, soccer, tennis, whiffle ball and other sports teams also abound. An annual talent show that's so popular the company has to rent out a nearby sports stadium lets employees strut their artistic talents.
Besides more traditional corporate social activities such as summer picnics, holiday parties, office Halloween trick-or-treating and an all-hands town-hall style meeting, Bridgewater's most anticipated annual event is the SCRUM.
The SCRUM is a swimming-scrabbling-running race around Bridgewater's headquarters via the pond, stream and rapids that encircle the building. More than 100 employees compete for two coveted prizes — two airline tickets to any destination in the world; and the winner's name inscribed on the SCRUM Cup, the only trophy displayed in the headquarters' lobby despite the many prizes Bridgewater has collected over the years.