Tortoise Capital Advisors LLC is following the lead of its hometown baseball team.
Fresh off a World Series title this year, and a second trip to the series in two years, the Kansas City Royals are not the only ones collecting accolades. Tortoise, which holds lotteries for its employees throughout the year for its Royals season tickets, was named a Pensions & Investments' Best Place to Work in Money Management for the second consecutive year.
Much like the Royals, Tortoise is largely built on homegrown talent.
The master limited partnership manager epitomizes “Midwestern values, doing right by others,” said Connie Savage, managing director and chief operating officer.
Many of the employees had worked together since before Tortoise was started in 2002 by private equity firm Kansas City Equity Partners and high-yield manager Fountain Capital Management. Many others that joined from firms such as Blackstone Group, Goldman Sachs and Grosvenor Capital Management in New York and Chicago are originally from the Kansas City, Mo., area, said CEO and co-founder H. Kevin Birzer.
It's a “different mindset” coming to Tortoise and a city outside the hotspots of money management firms; people making that decision want to come home and ideally finish their career there, Mr. Birzer said. The best thing Mr. Birzer hears from job candidates is they are “looking for (their) last job.”
“We've been blessed with an incredibly talented staff,” he said. “I never thought we'd be able to attract the kind of people we have.”
Tortoise moved to a new office in 2008 to foster a more collaborative environment “and turn the firm culture into a floor plan,” blending the traditional with the innovative, Mr. Birzer said. It has a 360-degree, open space architecture. None of the offices has a door, the meeting room tables are circular and the design is complete with new art, more natural light and colorful rooms to create a positive energy, Ms. Savage said.
“We've always had the concept that teamwork matters here,” Mr. Birzer said. “We have to understand drillers, petroleum companies, private equity, tax knowledge, alternative energy ... no one person has a lock on all that knowledge. We deliberately hire people from different backgrounds.”
There is a conference room dedicated to the firm's history. A dozen conference rooms were renamed after the largest shale regions in which Tortoise invests; they also correlate geographically in the office as they do on a map.
The design and culture appear to be working. An employee responded to the Best Places to Work survey saying, “Executives are extremely approachable and willing to develop relationships with the younger employees.” Another said, “Everyone works together and is easy to work with. The company provides outstanding support for its employees. All ideas are considered, no matter whom they come from or how different the idea is.”
Certain employees who meet predefined criteria are eligible to purchase equity stakes in the company, including rolling their bonuses into the equity pool. Currently, there are about 30 equity owners out of 69 employees.