The culture of private equity manager Abbott Capital Management LLC can be summed up in the story of the name that founders Stanley E. Pratt and Raymond L. Held chose when they founded the firm in 1986.
The men, both now retired, “chose not to use their names because they wanted to have a firm that would extend beyond them,” said Jonathan D. Roth, managing director and president, who became the ninth employee when he was hired in 1992.
Mr. Roth said another sign of the kind of firm Abbott is can be found in the fact that both founders retired “seamlessly” — Mr. Pratt in 2001 and Mr. Held in 2009.
“We had no turnover of clients or partners as a result of the founders' retirements,” said Charles H. van Horne, managing director of marketing and client services, who joined the firm in 2001.
Abbott Capital is now owned by 11 managing directors and had more than $7.5 billion in assets under management as of June 30, according to information from the firm. The last time a senior investment professional left for reasons other than retirement was 16 years ago, according to Mr. van Horne.
It's a small, close-knit organization, where Messrs. Roth and van Horne, along with Kathryn J. Stokel, managing director and chief operating officer, batted about their associates' names and job trajectories at the company with pride.
The long tenures are viewed as an asset and a sense of business practicality by Mr. Roth and others.
“We know that if you put Abbott first by putting the clients first, we will all be OK,” Mr. Roth said.
“The thesis for Abbott was to create an organization that can be accountable to clients as a fiduciary over time,” Mr. van Horne said.
Ms. Stokel, who joined the firm in 1998, cited the “qualitative, constructive” annual review process and an atmosphere where there is “no shouting or yelling,” as important traits that distinguish the Abbott culture as well.
Abbott employees who responded to the Pensions & Investments Best Places to Work survey cited similar shared values to those cited by the company's senior executives. One employee listed among the “best things” about working at Abbott, the “philosophy of promoting from within” that “provides ample opportunity for career advancement,” and a “strong sense of satisfaction from knowing that we are working primarily for the benefit of pensioners and endowments.”
Another offered that “senior management is the best I've worked for in my 30 years in private equity.”
A third employee specifically cited the 15% of annual total compensation, including bonuses, that the company contributes each year into employee 401(k) accounts as one of the best aspects of working there.
Executives interviewed, and employees responding to the survey, also cited a family-like culture. Events such as monthly birthday pizza lunches and birthday cards along with after-work activities including group bowling and pingpong outings as well as the company herb and vegetable gardens on terraces outside the ninth-floor offices in midtown Manhattan were cited as important reasons for what Mr. Van Horne called “the stickiness of the staff.”
Mr. Roth also pointed to the company getting 100% participation from employees for volunteer work this year with United Harlem, a community-based organization providing support and assistance to children and families living with HIV/AIDS.
Mr. Roth added that the firm hires for “the networking effect” that he said is so important to private equity.
The staff now includes several people who came into the organization on recommendations from staff or clients, he said.
“Different backgrounds give us different perspectives and experiences,” Mr. Roth said. “We don't want to have clones.”