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Training, development found as common attributes for winners

Maureen Cooper
Fiduciary Investment Advisors’ Maureen Cooper: New employees ‘don’t get siloed into one task (without realizing) what other people contribute to it and what other people do.’

Money managers who ranked in Pensions & Investments' Best Places to Work in Money Management survey emphasize training and development opportunities to ensure they remain best places to work well into the future.

Training and development loom large in these firms' priorities, beginning with the first day new hires walk into their offices, with some firms offering 80 or more hours of new employee orientation.

Jim Ward, Irvine, Calif.-based senior consultant, talent & rewards-global financial services at Willis Towers Watson, said in a telephone interview that cultural assimilation should be the No. 1 priority for new employees. That includes learning structural and operating procedures as well as the history of the organization and cultural nuances.

“You can hire a very seasoned professional with lots of experience and expertise, but if they don't understand the culture in which they're operating, they will fail,” Mr. Ward said. “That's a pretty well-known fact. I think a lot of people don't appreciate the importance and fine points of cultural assimilation.”

Mr. Ward added that while it is a top priority for companies to embrace the idea of integrating the new hire fully into their culture, “the individual really has to embrace it for themselves.”

“Do they operate in this organization from a cultural and operating-style perspective? I see that as pretty key and No. 1 on my list,” Mr. Ward said.

120 hours of orientation

Fiduciary Investment Advisors LLC, Hartford, Conn., emphasizes that new hires understand the company culture as well as every level of the company's operations, offering 120 hours of orientation.

Maureen Cooper, FIA's chief operating officer, said part of the motivation stems from a competitive hiring arena. Insurance companies are a primary source of competition for candidates in the area, which she said seem to offer a highly structured training program.

One of the most important parts of its orientation is making sure the new person has a complete understanding of all the functions of the firm.

“They don't get siloed into one task (without realizing) what other people contribute to it,” Ms. Cooper said, “and what other people do. Basically they spend half an hour with each other person in the firm and make sure they understand what their role is and what's important about it.”

Each new employee also has a personal meeting with Mark R. Wetzel, the firm's president. He talks about how FIA operates and how departments work together.

“I think that's kind of neat for a new employee to get face time with the president early on'' who explains the culture of the firm and how all the spokes fit together, Ms. Cooper said.

Mr. Ward said firms would be well advised to develop a feedback-rich culture.

The culture would provide “transparency on performance, and there's accountability,” Mr. Ward said. “It's ingrained in the individual and consistent with the culture obviously. The performance is real and the organization is going to be very transparent about how you're doing.”

Pacific Alternative Asset Management Co. LLC, Irvine, Calif., for example, has a class that has a final exam among the 120 hours of annual training and development.

Within their first year, associates take the class, taught by Jane Buchan, managing director and CEO, and Philippe Jorion, managing director in the options, futures and other derivatives risk management group. Associates must pass the class, which consists of 20 three-hour sessions, to move on to other training and development programs. A four-hour final exam completes the course.

“People stay up late,” said Mayer Cherem, managing director, head of portfolio solutions at PAAMCO, who runs what the firm calls its associate program. “You can see the lights on in the offices well past 9 o'clock and people are studying for their final exams.”

For those portfolio managers that pass the test, every six weeks a senior official from places such as the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and other banking and financial firms comes to deliver what the firm calls its senior investment seminars.

Josh Vail, senior vice president, director of sales, at 361 Capital LLC, Denver, said his company has weekly training on Friday afternoons, which averages to about 80 hours per year per employee, when many of their clients are wrapping up for the week. “So rather than just continue to just pound the phone and wait for the day to end, we talk about the week and put context around our strategy and tactics,” Mr. Vail said.

Lower-level employees are also invited to propose and develop classes for the Friday afternoon sessions. “They get a lot of ownership out of all the classes if they know what goes into building them,” Mr. Vail said.

At companies like Western Asset Management Co., Pasadena, Calif., and TCW Group, Los Angeles, training and development go a step further. Both firms have established intrafirm “universities” that offer a breadth of classes in for training and development for employees.

Western Asset University began at WAMCO in 2007 with the mission statement to provide employees with learning and development experiences that lead to personal and professional growth, improve performance and bring value to the business, said Steven Rue, head of leadership and development.

More than 400 courses

WAU offers more than 400 courses, both online and led by instructors. Some of the most popular include Managing Interpersonal Relationships, Interviewing Skills, Professional Writing Skills and Presentation Skills.

Finishing the courses, however, doesn't mean the end of training and development. Mr. Rue said students are contacted six months after completion for course assessment.

TCW University also started in 2007 and its primary purpose is to refine the firm's focus on employee development, broaden the knowledge and professional skills of employees and expose more employees to senior leadership, said Cheryl Marzano, group managing director and head of human resources.

Classes fall into three categories: core business classes, professional skills classes and classes intended to promote the general well-being of employees and their families.

This article originally appeared in the December 12, 2016 print issue as, "Training, development found as common attributes for winners".