“Think the power of long-term relationships.”
That's the advice of John Montgomery — founder and CEO of Bridgeway Capital Management, a two-time winner of the Best Places to Work in Money Management — to other money management firms.
“If you don't lay off people every five years, then people get a chance to build a long-term relationship,” said Mr. Montgomery.
The firm saves part of its profits to a “rainy day fund.” During an industry downturn, instead of laying off staff to get costs back in line, “we rely on strong balance sheet and continue to build the firm,” he said.
Von Celestine, chief financial officer of the Houston-based firm, said getting through the Great Recession as a team has helped the firm to reinforce its culture and partner commitment. “The care we have and the people” makes Bridgeway a special place, Mr. Celestine said.
Bridgeway employees, all known as partners, laud the firm's caring culture. “Working at Bridgeway is like being part of a well-functioning family,” one partner wrote in the Best Places to Work survey, “politics or positioning is non-existent.” Said another: “All my colleagues are smart, silly and caring!”
The firm sees a high level of collaboration among and across teams. Interviews with job candidates have to be done by all partners from the whole firm, and new hires are assigned a “buddy” — outside the person's team — to make sure he or she feels included.
Mr. Celestine thinks the extensive interview process can show the candidate all parts of Bridgeway, and “it's important to let him come in to have the support of the entire firm to be successful.”
The caring culture of Bridgeway goes beyond its own benefit.
“A philanthropic spirit is built into the fabric of the company,” one partner wrote in the survey.
The firm donates half of its investment advisory fee profit to non-profit organizations through its Bridgeway Foundation. The foundation's mission is to “work toward the prevention of oppression, genocide and human right violations.”
For the past five years, the foundation focused on helping put an end to the violence associated with the Lord's Resistance Army, an African rebel group that has been accused of murder, abduction and forcing children to participate in hostilities.
Partners are encouraged to make a difference by taking part in “mission trips.” This year, mission members went to Latin American countries to work on providing drinkable water in remote areas. The firm pays half of the cost of these trips.
The volunteer work has been going on for 10 years.
“Our mission and vision motivate me tremendously. I would not leave this company just for this reason alone,” one partner wrote in the survey.
Mr. Montgomery said of the service trips: “We learn more about another culture. It makes people more humble, which is a good thing in business, and it's a much more natural way to know each other.”
Cultural exchanges happen inside and outside of Bridgeway. Half of the partners at Bridgeway were not born in the U.S., and this often results in some debate in their break room. Mr. Montgomery said Kai Liu, a research analyst whose family is originally from China, often ends any political debate with a simple statement: “The bottom line is, we live in a country where we can criticize the government.” Mr. Montgomery said this has gotten him to rethink some things he had always taken for granted.
Another example of Bridgeway's diversity is that, unlike many other money management firms, half of the firm's portfolio managers are women. Mr. Montgomery said this happened naturally throughout the years. “Diversity attracts diversity,” he said.