After first buying corporate art to decorate the offices Babson Capital moved into in Charlotte, N.C., in 2005, a decision was made last summer to change out the art for something that gave the office more of a sense of place and a connection to community.
Starting this year, the company is partnering with arts organizations in Charlotte to use the two-story atrium lobby of Babson's office in the Duke Energy Center as a contemporary art showcase.
The first exhibit, “Nature: A Contemporary Look,” opened in October and runs through January. The exhibit features the work of nine alumni of Charlotte's McColl Center for the Visual Arts' artist-in-residence program.
Thomas Finke, chairman and CEO of Babson Capital, described the art exhibit as “a small thing,” but noted, “small things add up.”
“You come to work every day and know you are going to be entering a place with highly skilled professionals who really care about getting the job done the right way,” Mr. Finke said about the team-driven environment that typifies the culture he strives to grow at Babson. “The fundamental philosophy is you are never finished trying to improve on the things you do.”
Employees who responded to Pensions & Investments' Best Places to Work in Money Management survey cited the “corporate culture of integrity and respect,” and the opportunity to work with “smart people,” among the best things about working at Babson.
One said “the overall environment of the company has a sense of pride in doing a job well done.”
Chief Administrative Officer Susan Moore, who has been with Babson since it was formed in 2000 and has spent more than 20 years with Babson and its parent company, Mass Mutual Financial Group, said the culture is important for attracting both the team and clients. “We are not only investing, but invested,” Ms. Moore said. People at Babson have “true passions for everything we do.”
The art showcase is just one example of the community involvement Mr. Finke and Ms. Moore cite as important to developing the Babson culture.
In 2007, Mr. Finke said, the company decided to look at all of its charitable giving and ultimately adopted a strategy to tie the giving to the cities in which the company's offices are located.
An employee-staffed charitable committee now sets a budget for each of the investment offices — five in the U.S. and two overseas — and works on events from building a Habitat for Humanity house in Springfield, Mass., to sponsoring the Hopebuilders 5K benefit run for Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte.
Other affiliations have included working with the group Autism Speaks to raise money, supporting the Boston Medical Center and Boston Youth Symphony, and participating in the Pan-Mass Challenge, a bike-a-thon that raises money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund.
Mr. Finke said fostering culture across multiple offices is reinforced by offsite meetings once or twice a year, as well as team meetings at least once a year, Mr. Finke said. “It takes an investment of time away from the job, of teams getting together, to focus on improving teamwork,” he said. “Our business strategy is to develop a platform of global products, and that has really taken teamwork to another level.”