So now that he's the boss, he goes to his employees. It's all part of an egalitarian atmosphere he has hoped to create at TCW.
“Anyone in the company can thrive with hard work, drive and talent,” he said. This egalitarian bent helps TCW retain talented employees, he said.
“Asset management is a funny business filled with super intelligent people who are really well paid,” Mr. Lippman said. “They could work at a host of other firms that look and smell the same.”
Two-thirds of TCW employees have been at the firm for longer than five years, with the remaining third at TCW for more than a decade, he said.
“We have an ownership mentality,” Mr. Lippman said.
Last year, for the first time in its 44-year history, executives at the firm gave its lowest paid workers — the dining room staff — a one-time bonus so they, too, could share in TCW's significant assets under management growth in 2014, Mr. Lippman said.
“The importance of the bonus was how they acted months afterward. ... They were part of the team,” he said.
In their responses to a question about what they liked best about working at TCW, employees commented on their managers' support and the performance-based culture. One cited “recognition through awards, promotions and compensation for doing a good job.”
Mr. Lippman joined the firm when TCW acquired his old firm, Metropolitan West Asset Management LLC, in 2010. That's where he and his team learned “humility,” he said.
At MetWest, they would spend the first 10 minutes of every conversation with potential clients explaining that they were not related to Metropolitan Life.
“No, Snoopy is not our mascot,” he joked, sitting in his office overlooking the crane-filled views of downtown Los Angeles.
Then turning serious: “We're not rock stars. We are stewards of other people's money.”
Mr. Lippman says he walks around the office to make sure he knows all of TCW's employees.
“People are surprised by the things that hit the CEO's radar,” said Cheryl Marzano, a TCW managing director and head of human resources.
TCW programs such as its legacy TCW University have helped employees from different departments meet each other. Recently, a person from trading sought the help of a research analyst about various chemotherapy drug therapies for the trader's father, who had just been diagnosed with melanoma, Mr. Lippman recounted. The researcher immediately assisted the trader with information she had at her fingertips.
Mr. Lippman acknowledges that TCW's high-achiever culture means the work-life balance is often tipped toward work. Some traders get into work at 4:30 a.m., with many people putting in 12-hour days. “By the time they get home they are chopped meat,” he said. “I walk to the fixed-income floor at 7 p.m. to kick them out.”
That is why TCW participates in events that include employees' families, such as volunteering at the United Way's Homewalk, a 5K run and walk to end homelessness, and the Special Olympics, Ms. Marzano said.
“Things like that bring people together,” she said.