At Aksia LLC, giving employees the ability to overhear other people's conversations was “almost deliberate,” said Jim Vos, a founding partner and CEO of the New York-based hedge fund consulting firm.
By seating members of the consulting team close to the hedge fund manager research unit, for example, both teams “learn from hearing what members of the other team are talking about to clients or hedge fund portfolio managers,” Mr. Vos said.
The firm's wide-open floor plan fits well with the flat organizational structure that Mr. Vos and five other co-founding partners designed when they launched the firm in October 2006.
“The company is young and has maintained its down-to-earth roots. You'd be hard-pressed to find a company in New York finance with (a) similar culture,” said an employee in response to Pensions & Investments' Best Places to Work survey.
The Aksia culture incorporates a big dose of fun into work life.
For example, since the firm's earliest days, a group coalesces about 7 p.m. most Fridays to hit happy hour down the street at T.G. Whitney's, “a college bar that somehow found itself in New York City,” Mr. Vos said.
“Water-cooler trash talk” from September through December is dominated by a fantasy football league, said Patrick Adelsbach, a founding partner. Rivalry for the annual league trophy is “insanely competitive,” he said.
“People genuinely like to work here and have fun with each other,” said another respondent, adding “it's a playful environment, yet the employees are incredibly smart and motivated.”
Intelligence and self-motivation are two of Aksia's sought-after characteristics in recruiting new employees, regardless of their academic backgrounds or work experience, Mr. Adelsbach said.
The hiring process results in “an eclectic work force that is not homogeneous. We have a diverse workforce with people from many ethnic backgrounds (as well as) extroverts, introverts and very creative types,” Mr. Adelsbach said, adding that all share Aksia's third prized characteristic of working well together.
The work-life balance afforded employees is one of the things survey respondents said they like best about working at Aksia.
That tolerance for flexible work schedules gives creative souls such as Aaron Schechter, a research analyst on Aksia's operations and due diligence team, the freedom to pursue his avocation as a rap artist.
His alter-ego, Sir Sheck, is half of the duo Divine Rhyme, which performs at concert venues around New York, often attended by Aksia colleagues.