What do you call an investment management company founded by four former college professors?
“PAAMCO University!” said Kevin Williams, managing director and head of account management at the firm known more formally as Pacific Alternative Asset Management Co. LLC.
“There is a really fun, collegial atmosphere around here, a combination of education, research, the challenge of accomplishment and silly things,” Mr. Williams said. Those silly things include founder (and Ph.D. holder) Jim Berens' Friday afternoon music contests that are heard throughout the Irvine, Calif., headquarters via the public address system, Mr. Williams said.
Mr. Williams said he's stayed at the hedge funds-of-funds manager since he joined as a summer intern 13 years ago not just for the fun, but also because of “the vast variety of experiences I've had here.”
“I was hungry for an entrepreneurial experience and at PAAMCO, I could jump into a lot of different things where I could make a big difference. It's been great being part of a growing young company where your get-up-and-go gets rewarded,” Mr. Williams added.
That motivation to make a difference is a common characteristic of PAAMCO's annual intake of four or five young associates, said Mayer Cherem, a managing director who manages the associates program.
“The people who join our associates program tend to be people who care, who want to make an impact. They could work at many other places, but they pick PAAMCO,” Mr. Cherem said, noting that nine of the firm's partners, including himself, came up through the associates program.
“New employees come to PAAMCO because they are interested in making a difference, and many are more enthusiastic about managing the assets of pension funds and other institutions than making a lot of money somewhere else,” said Jane Buchan, founder, managing director and PAAMCO's CEO.
PAAMCO's West Coast location is “a lifestyle choice with a different rhythm,” Ms. Buchan said.
“Here on the West Coast, we may be in the office at 4 a.m. because of the time difference, but we're home for dinner, which becomes a big advantage when employees start getting married and having kids,” said Ms. Buchan.
Interoffice challenges tend to bring out employee competitiveness, none more so than the Halloween costume contest, said Dorothy Walsh, associate vice president, head of commingled funds and the self-appointed “carrier of culture.”
“I had to take myself out of the costume contest because I always won. Now I emcee the event, but I do coach some of the department teams. I stress that it's not just about the costume. You can't just wear it: You have to own it!”
“I love it when we all get together and just have fun. We all work really hard here and it helps to lighten the load a little when we are relaxed and hanging out,” Ms. Walsh said.