A second-time winner of Pensions & Investments' Best Places to Work in Money Management, SEI Investments Co. is better known among employees for the awards it bestows, rather than the awards it receives.
Employees are honored for their initiative and teamwork; for innovation that improves corporate processes; and for client service. There's an award for outstanding leadership, one for teams that produce “exemplary” results and another for managers who “create a team culture that drives results.”
And there's the ESP Award (extraordinary SEI partner) for outside firms that have helped SEI improve its business and/or its relationship with clients.
“Recognition goes a long way,” said Edward Loughlin, a 34-year SEI veteran who is executive vice president and head of the global institutional group.
Nominations are made by employees and evaluated by an employee screening team, Mr. Loughlin said. This bottom-up approach is a constant theme at SEI for special events, charitable giving and education/training activities.
The environment for recognition and greater communication is encouraged by a company whose headquarters lacks private offices, executive dining rooms, cubicles, company cars and assigned parking spaces. Mr. Loughlin pointed out that when Alfred West Jr. — the founder, chairman and CEO — arrives late, he parks in a remote parking lot because all the nearby spaces are filled.
Employees responding to P&I's survey cited support for education, including advanced degrees, and management training.
Mr. Loughlin added that an important component of SEI training is public speaking. “A lot of the investment business is about communication,” Mr. Loughlin said. “Presentation skills are important.”
Formal titles are used when dealing with clients, but “are not very useful in day-to-day operations,” said Mr. Loughlin.
This informality extends to the office layout which, employees say, encourages greater communication. The office design “makes it feel like the supervisors and their employees are on the same level,” wrote one employee.
Another praised the open environment, saying “it encourages people to ask questions and collaborate,” and it also “fosters close relationships with those around you.”
Those close relationships are built in many ways, said Mr. Loughlin during a telephone interview while a baby shower was in progress in the background.
For example, charitable contributions are made through SEI Cares, which is run by employees who decide not only the amount of money but also the type of charity. “This is all employee-driven,” he said.
Among other programs, SEI Cares invites Philadelphia public school children to visit the SEI campus, look at Mr. West's extensive modern art collection, and make videos in the company video center. SEI also has donated money to employees who helped residents in New Orleans rebuild after Hurricane Katrina and residents of New York City rebuild after Hurricane Sandy. Those who helped those communities were given a week off with pay to visit those cities.
The company also caters to employees' needs and interests outside of work. On campus, there's a fitness center, a concierge desk that arranges for car repairs, a tailoring service, jewelry repair, on-site banking, a dry cleaning service, a coffee shop and a cafeteria.
“We wanted to make sure the employees could get what they wanted,” said Colleen Stratton, leader for workforce development. When the company moved to its current location 1994, there were far fewer services nearby than today.
A family center, which opened in 1998, provides back-up day care as well as what the company calls “summer camps,” the opportunity for young children to take part in activities on campus between the end of school and the start of the summer camp season as well as between the end of camp and the start of school, she said.
The services get high marks from employees. Said one: “You don't just work at SEI. You are SEI.”