Best places to work: NORTHERN TRUST ASSET MANAGEMENT

Chicago | 720 employees | 2nd among organizations with 500 to fewer than 1,000 employees

Rick Waddell
Northern Trust Chairman and CEO Rick Waddell lines up a putt at a contest as part of the company's annual 'Fund Fest' in Chicago.

At Northern Trust Asset Management, the mantra is service, integrity and expertise, said Stephen N. Potter, president.

It's all part of NTAM's effort to promote a work-life balance.

“That makes for healthier and happier and motivated employees,” Mr. Potter said.

That holistic culture includes a bit of mischievous fun as well as regular time for candid conversation with the boss. For example, one day every summer staff gathers for a set of competitions and games, in a team-building exercise devoted to raising funds for United Way. A highlight of the event is the dunk tank and its occupants. Every year, Mr. Potter and Frederick H. Waddell, chairman and CEO, Northern Trust Corp., parent of NTAM, volunteer as targets.

Employees “buy balls to throw or, for a special price, you can just go up and press the lever to get our senior people wet,” said Kathryn A. O'Neill, senior vice president, human resources, NTAM.

Another “great thing” Mr. Potter does is brown-bag employee lunches at least every other month in groups of 10 to 15 from an open sign-up, Ms. O'Neill said.

“Management ... is open to hearing about and implementing change from all members on team,” remarked a respondent to Pensions & Investments' Best Places to Work in Money Management survey. A number of other employees agreed, in comments such as its “great, collaborative working environment.”

Mr. Potter said the company “has a unique ability to really work as a team,” encouraged by “team rewards on variable cash compensation, driven by performance.” And, good compensation and benefits were mentioned by a number of respondents.

“Northern has always felt employees should have an equity interest in the company,” carried out through an employee stock ownership plan, Mr. Potter said.

In terms of professional development, NTAM makes a “significant commitment,” Mr. Potter said, and employees cited that in their survey responses.

“We encourage our younger talent to sit” for the chartered financial analyst examination, Mr. Potter said. “We offer them time off to study. We actually created an internal ... CFA affinity group ... to provide recognition and engagement.”

“We are trying to support our employees through their entire employee journey ... all the way through all the stages of your career,” Ms. O'Neill said, adding, “making sure you have opportunities for career advancement.” That support includes flexible work hours.

The company two years ago introduced paid time off for “a Day of Caring” for employees to volunteer, she said. That benefit was “in response to some feedback ... from employees.” Volunteering “is a fabric of our culture,” Ms. O'Neill said.

As one respondent put it, “The balance of pay and other benefits ... actively supports and encourages work-life balance so that people can have a life and be refreshed and invigorated to give their best during working hours.”

Another commented, “Northern Trust really cares about their employees and their families.”

As part of that balance, it has begun a robust program called “life care,” offering support, kits or discounts to resources for all sorts of life challenges and wellness aims of employees, from a teenager becoming a driver to caring for an elderly parent, from sending a child off to college to assistance with a child with behavioral issues, Ms. O'Neill said.

“If Northern can provide a little bit easier access to information, easier access to resources, discounts, we think that is an important thing to do for our employees,” Ms. O'Neill said,

“It's not a badge of honor to just burn the midnight oil,” Ms. O'Neill said. “We really do try to manage by outcomes, not by time in seat.”

“We really give them a lot of reason to stay and not a lot of reasons to leave,” she said.