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Best places to work in money management

Blackstone Group

Blackstone employees participated in a benefit ride to support cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as part of #CycleforSurvival, a national movement to beat rare cancers.

First place, money managers with more than 1,000 employees

AUM: $387.4 billion

Employees: 1,635

Blackstone Group LP executives are constantly tweaking their employee programs to ensure that the New York-based alternatives investment firm remains a great place to work.

The approach seems to be working for Blackstone, which has been recognized four times in Pensions & Investments' Best Places to Work in Money Management program.

"If you really care about your culture," firm executives have to constantly "tweak" programs, throwing out or adjusting thing that are no longer effective and adding new ones, said Hamilton E. "Tony" James, president and chief operating officer.

"You can't compensate for work environment weaknesses by throwing money at the problem," Mr. James said. Rather, it is important to ensure the company has a supportive environment filled with people who pull together as a team, he said.

A relatively new approach for Blackstone is to treat business problems or threats as untapped opportunities, bringing employees from a variety of areas to strategize, learn from each other, "think like leaders" and get to know peers across groups, Mr. James said.

One recent effort brought together investment and information technology staffers to focus on how technology impacts Blackstone's real estate business.

Blackstone also made its professional development program more robust in the past year, creating specialized programs to help junior employees climb the Blackstone ladder as well to assist senior executives in being more effective leaders.

"The company hires very smart, hardworking people who are also friendly and cooperative,'' one employee said in the BPTW survey. "It's a rare culture and it attracts other like-minded high performers."

One popular new program is "Fridays with Tony" a no-holds-barred informal gathering of eight to 10 mostly junior and midlevel employees who are invited to discuss Blackstone's business with Mr. James. He expects to have these discussions monthly. "It's all intended to help them get to the next rung on the ladder," Mr. James said.