At Western Asset Management Co., collaboration and collegiality are the keys to the firm's success, said James Hirschmann III, CEO and president.
Mr. Hirschmann eliminated most corporate titles when he took over as CEO in 1999 and introduced an open architecture in the main office in Pasadena, with low cubicles and few offices, somewhat replicating a trading room to increase employee interaction.
“We are looking for people that are highly intellectual, highly skilled, highly ethical and believe in the team approach,” Mr. Hirschmann said. “To use a football analogy, we want someone who will pick up a block for a co-worker.”
The approach seems to be working. “Teamwork” and “the collaborative culture” and “collegial spirit” were all often cited by employees in their responses to Pensions & Investments' Best Places to Work in Money Management survey.
“The lateral company culture ... everyone's approachable,” wrote one employee. “No one has a title. There are very few offices in Western's buildings. All of this promotes an open exchange of ideas.”
Paul White, head of human resources, said Western Asset “screens hard” for employees with a collaborative and communicative style and rejects people with big egos or directive styles for senior positions.
“We're looking for someone who is a team fit — someone that doesn't need a job description,” Mr. White said. “They just sit down, work on what is needed (and) are flexible and comfortable with multiple roles and their job changing.”
Opportunities for different roles abound throughout WAMCO. Mr. Hirschmann said the bond firm has an active exchange program, in which employees are given opportunities to take on new positions at any of the firm's nine offices throughout the world.
And it doesn't just apply to changing offices.
“If someone joins on the operations or back-office side, the door is open to move to the investment side,” Mr. White said. “We routinely move people from the back office to the front office.”
The company offers “Western Asset University,” which includes online or in-office courses on subjects such as presentation skills, leadership and interviewing, and tutorials on fixed income and bond market nomenclature.
About two-thirds of WAMCO's 900 employees are in Pasadena, but Mr. Hirschmann visits every office at least once a year and tries to bring cohesiveness to the firm, even making every office look identical “down to the carpet.”
Part of that cohesiveness includes friendly competitions among the nine offices — including Japan, Australia, the U.K. and Brazil — during global events such as the Olympics or World Cup that can be seen on every TV in WAMCO offices.
The company also takes out clients and employees for the annual Rose Bowl parade and accompanying events down the street from the headquarters.
“We want to have an environment and culture ... where we want to be best in class, but also enjoy working with each other,” Mr. Hirschmann said.