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Special Report

Ingredients for a great place to work

People, culture and benefits combine to make 29 firms this year's honorees

Twenty-nine firms are ranked as this year's Best Places to Work in Money Management.

That includes eight companies that have made the list each year since Pensions & Investments' inaugural effort in 2012.

Repeat winners — those ranked at least twice in the three years — outnumber new names by 15-14.

Principal Financial Group retained a first-place spot, but moved to the group of firms with more than 1,000 employees from the next largest category. The Blackstone Group remained the top alternatives manager.

Two newcomers captured first place — The TCW Group Inc. in the category of 500 to 999 employees, and Westwood Holdings Group among firms with 100 to 499 employees.

New this year: The category of firms with 99 or fewer employees was replaced with two. One category is for firms with 50 to 99, and one is for those with fewer than 50 employees.

Responses to the employer and employee questionnaires for all companies participating in the 2014 project showed some statistical differences between those that made the list and those that didn't, according to an analysis of the data by Rock Baek, senior associate in analytics, surveys and co-sourcing in Buck Consultants LLC's San Francisco office.

Among his findings:

  • 87% of employees at BPTW companies participate in performance-based pay programs vs. 76% of employees at the other companies;
  • 40% of the BPTW companies provide fully paid-for medical insurance and 45% offer free dental insurance, vs. 27% and 25%, respectively, for those that didn't make the list;
  • Pay for performance, employee relations and social responsibility, and corporate culture and communication are more important to BPTW employers than to those that didn't get ranked;
  • Employees at companies rated as Best Places to Work considered total rewards (compensation and benefits) and career development to be more important than did their counterparts at firms that didn't make the list; and
  • Special perks such as free or subsidized meals, recreational amenities and on-site fitness centers are considered more important at BPTW companies than at others. One company where perks are plentiful — and highly valued — is Highland Capital Management LP in Dallas. For example, health care is free of premiums and deductibles; breakfast foods are available for staff to prepare; and lunches are free up to an allowance of $15 daily.

P&I partners with Buck on Best Places to Work in Money Management. The process begins with registration in the spring, followed by completion of an employer survey. Buck then surveys employees, and firms must meet minimum response rates in order to get full credit.

Buck's survey department staff crunches the numbers, with employee survey results accounting for 60% of a company's score and employer survey responses, 40%.

Big on volunteerism

Volunteerism is big at companies making the 2014 list. Those opportunities to “give back” ranged from helping high school students with the college admissions process and beyond ( Standard Life Investments USA) to building houses for Habitat for Humanity (several companies) to completing 75 neighborhood projects around the world to celebrate Neuberger Berman LLC's 75th anniversary.

Culture and people are recurring themes of both employers and employees.

Mario L. Giannini, CEO of Hamilton Lane Advisors LLC, Bala Cynwyd, Pa., focused on both in a video interview with Pensions & Investments (www.pionline.com/HamiltonLane).

“What we try to have is ... a competitive, collaborative culture. ... We want to win ... but we want to do it in a way where we are doing it together. ... I think it's a culture where trust and faith in one another is a key part.” And culture, he said, “is the No. 1 factor” that makes a company a great place to work.

Mr. Giannini said Hamilton Lane executives devote a great deal of time listening to employees and then incorporating what employees want into the business plan. “You always hear clients come first ... or we worry about our shareholders. ... For us, if your employees really are motivated and working and want to be here, the client side and the shareholder side ... will happen as a result of that.”

Colin Meadows, senior managing director and chief administrative officer at Invesco (IVZ) Ltd., Atlanta, put it this way: “We feel as a company that we've come such a long way in really establishing a highly collaborative culture. That permeates everything we do.

“We thought about: Why would someone want to come? Why would someone want to stay?”

At Arrowpoint Partners, Denver, which has 37 employees, “people ask, "what's your AUM?' It's 37 people,” said David Corkins, co-founder, principal and portfolio manager.

When employees of the Best Places to Work in Money Management were asked to name the best things about working for their companies, culture and people were almost universally on their lists.

“The culture is ethical and inspiring,” a BlackRock (BLK) Inc. (BLK) employee said.

“The three best things are the people, people and the people,” an employee at Los Angeles-based TCW said.

“We're all in this together,” said one employee of Bridgeway Capital Management Inc., Houston. Another said “everyone cares about each other,” while yet another noted “we are truly a family.”

This article originally appeared in the December 8, 2014 print issue as, "Ingredients for a great place to work".