Investment staffers at the California State Teachers' Retirement System say their job offers them something rare in the world of money management — time for a decent home life.
“The biggest attribute I could say about CalSTRS and working in the investment office is the work-life balance,” Wilson Yee, a portfolio manager for the $175.9 billion pension fund's passive equity portfolio said in an interview.
“(We have) the ability to enjoy what we do and come home at a reasonable hour. I remember back in the private (sector) days it was 12-to-15-hour days; now my days are nine to 10 hours.”
Mr. Yee said that balance gives him time to spend with his 13-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son.
Christopher Ailman, the pension fund's chief investment officer, said “family first” isn't just words for CalSTRS' investment staffers: ”I want us to live that and actually demonstrate it.
“If you want a professional challenge and a work-life balance, and you want to coach your child's soccer team or want to be there for their sixth-grade graduation, then come and work here,” he said.
Mr. Ailman noted that CalSTRS can offer more of a balance for employees because it is a long-term investor: “We're in a marathon.”
Michelle Cunningham, acting deputy chief investment officer, said she learned Mr. Ailman was serious about work-life balance when she started texting about work topics during a vacation in Hawaii.
“He threatened to cut off my BlackBerry service,” she said.
CalSTRS investment staffers also have a new building, opened in 2009 on the banks of the Sacramento River. Amenities include a river walk where some staffers go jogging during lunch, a gym and and reduced fee cafeteria meals underwritten by parking fees.
CalSTRS' investment staffers praised the work-life balance, the gym and the cafeteria in their responses to Pensions & Investments' survey on Best Places to Work in Money Management. Others commented on the work atmosphere.
“On a personal level everyone is friendly,” said one employee.
“The cheerful, friendly environment,” another said, when asked what's the best thing about working there.
And then there are the competitions Mr. Ailman stages at staff meetings, including showing a short clip from a movie and asking staffers to name the flick. Others involve asking staffers to wear their most outrageous Hawaiian shirt, and there are Dodgers / Giants days, in which fans of the Major League Baseball teams wear their respective gear.
Some staffers, however, said the best perk is the view from the investment offices on the 14th and 15th floors of the CalSTRS building. They see Raley Field, home of the River Cats, a minor-league affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. During games, they can actually sneak a view of the action.