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William Blair Investment Management

Michelle Seitz, left, global head of investment management, and John Ettelson, president and CEO, are among the volunteers for William Blair’s Community Day helping out at Bernie’s Book Bank.

Deliberately avoiding bureaucracy nurtures innovation, promotes professional growth

Fourth place, managers with 100 to 499 employees

For William Blair Investment Management LLC, the key elements in building a global investment management firm are its people and its corporate culture promoting teamwork that is entrepreneurial, collaborative and collegial.

The Chicago-based firm, a four-time winner in Pensions & Investments' Best Places to Work in Money Management survey and a unit of William Blair & Co. LLC, embraces meritocracy, “encouraging people to put forward their best” and compensating them well for doing so, said John R. Ettelson, president and CEO.

Michelle Seitz, head of investment management, said: “We want to lead in a way that doesn't feel like (overbearing) management and ... stave off anything that feels like bureaucracy so that people feel free to innovate, feel that they have a voice, spread their wings and ... reach (their) highest potential.”

William Blair encourages staff retention, Mr. Ettelson said.

“We want to cultivate (a culture) so that people never feel as though they need to leave” and go elsewhere “to feel the excitement” of professional growth, Ms. Seitz added.

The firm embraces community involvement, selecting causes chosen by employees, including Urban Initiatives, which brings underprivileged children in Chicago “who have never been downtown and certainly never been to a professional office building” to spend a day at William Blair, including a luncheon, to inspire and engage their ambitions. Employees also work with Bernie's Book Bank by contributing books for children without any of their own, Mr. Ettelson said.

Fun activities around the office included an employees' luncheon in November serving ballpark-type foods while streaming a rerun of the final game of this year's World Series, climaxing in a Cubs victory.

Many of the 400 employees in the investment management unit expressed sentiments confirming the culture's ideals, saying the firm “takes care of its employees,” “creates a positive team environment,” “promotes a highly intellectually stimulating environment,” where “employees can thrive professionally.”

This article originally appeared in the December 12, 2016 print issue as, "William Blair Investment Management".