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Best places

Best places to work: HAMILTON LANE ADVISORS

Hamilton Lane staff pose for a photo with the firm’s collection of guitars

Bala Cynwyd, Pa. | 214 employees | 2nd among alternatives managers | Two-time winner

Mario L. Giannini, CEO of Hamilton Lane Advisors LLC, hates “The Office.”

“I hate (TV) shows like this because they convey the message that work sucks, that managers all hate their employees, and that work is all about back-stabbers and schemers,” Mr. Giannini said.

Full transparency is Hamilton Lane's secret to preventing that stereotypical bad office environment.

Every employee — from receptionist Pandora Curtis in the Bala Cynwyd, Pa., headquarters to the 151 employees who work in the light-filled space behind her desk to the 62 people who work in 10 offices around the world — is kept closely apprised of company business.

“Everyone here knows the compensation scheme,” Mr. Giannini said in a telephone interview. There are 75 shareholders, and non-shareholders receive bonuses. “The money made here is not distributed only to the top executives. The gains of the firm are shared fairly,” he added.

“If you are a firm that's all about culture, people and collaboration, and you are growing fast, the challenge is to foster constant communication across the firm,” Mr. Giannini said.

Employees seem to agree.

“I know what is going on all the time. Nothing is sacred. All questions are answered honestly. There is no (BS),” said one employee in a response to Pensions & Investments' Best Places to Work in Money Management survey.

“I have been challenged to do things outside of my comfort zone and improve areas of weakness,” commented another employee on the survey, adding “it is good to play for the winning team.”

Another challenge for Hamilton Lane — a Best Places to Work in Money Management winner last year — is its youthful employee base, dominated by people in their 20s and 30s who are “very tech savvy, very mobile,” said Erik Hirsch, chief investment officer, and Mr. Giannini's long-time partner in managing the firm.

That mobility and constant thirst for information, combined with the fact that many Hamilton Lane employees are raising young children, has made the issue of flexible work schedules a big one for the firm.

“Through multiple life events, my firm has supported me and afforded me work/life balance that allows me to pursue my career and continue to advance within the company, while also building a meaningful, full life outside the office,” another employee noted on the P&I survey.

“We take the time to enjoy each other and our work and to not take ourselves too seriously,” the staffer added.

Hamilton Lane's massive technology infrastructure means “always being connected does not mean always here,” Mr. Hirsch said, noting the firm's management strives not to have employees at the office until midnight, but rather, at home with their families, even if they do have to be on call or work into the night.

While employees are in the office, their tastes and needs are carefully attended to. For example, the headquarters was built using a blueprint that puts executive offices in the center, “without windows. This is pretty atypical. We wanted to create a better cubicle life by providing lots of natural light and an open-plan workspace,” Mr. Giannini said.

Lots of floor space also is devoted to conference rooms for easy collaboration and contact with employees in more far-flung offices. In fact, the human-to-conference room ratio at the headquarters is 9-5.

“I really like the fact that you can walk down the hall and hear Richard Hope's Scottish accent on the line from our London office, and you can just stop in the conference room and say hello,” Mr. Giannini said.

Coffee is a subject of intense interest at the headquarters, so much so that coffee-tasting panels were convened to quell the debate. “We're on our third coffee vendor,” griped Mr. Hirsch good naturedly.

The firm's free Monday lunches are the social highlight of the week and the catering committee takes care to survey employees on their food choices.

“We all feel really excited when our food choice is selected for a Monday free lunch,” said Kristin Williamson, corporate marketing and communications manager.