“Nice” is not a word ordinarily associated with alternative investment managers, but those are the only kind of people The Blackstone Group LP hires.
“We only hire nice people,” said Stephen A. Schwarzman, chairman, co-founder and CEO.
“This is not an accident,” he stressed, noting that when he and Peter G. Peterman founded Blackstone in 1985, they both were tired of working in “highly politicized, complex environment(s). We agreed only to hire nice, talented people. There would be no room for political infighting and bad behavior. We legislated that out.”
The collegial atmosphere and emphasis on giving employees the leeway to learn and rise within Blackstone is much appreciated by employees, and is just one reason Blackstone placed first among alternative investment managers for the second year in a row.
“(I have) opportunities and responsibilities unparalleled to anyone in my peer group,” said one employee, adding that a big advantage of working for Blackstone is the “team environment where individual performance is not seen as zero sum, aka no sharp elbows.”
Mr. Schwarzman pointed to the “very horizontal structure” of the company that allows even the most junior employees to be in on decision-making.
“It's very exciting to be in our business and we like to communicate that. Everyone in the company is an important person and people around here learn that not even the grown-ups have all the right answers,” he added.
Blackstone has one mission: investment excellence for investors.
“Blackstone is a mission, not a business,” Mr. Schwarzman said. “Employees feel pride in the mission and the focus we have on doing the right thing.”
“The standard of care is higher for private equity than for other investment strategies, and that pressure is felt by even the most junior employee,” said Joseph P. Baratta, senior managing director and head of Blackstone's private equity group. “But given that we manage money to benefit 37 million retirees around the world, people are convinced that they are doing good. I know it sounds a bit hokey, but it's really true.”
Within the high-pressure business of private equity management, Mr. Baratta said Blackstone is very careful to steer employees toward balancing work and personal lives.
“We don't reward people who work 150 hours a week and make everyone else miserable. We work with those employees to help them achieve a more appropriate balance,” Mr. Baratta said.
Many partners and senior managers, including Mr. Baratta, have young families, who get together fairly often. One of the most popular outings, open to everyone, in the New York area is a summer day at the beachside house of one of Blackstone's senior executives.
Blackstone's U.S. families also “love the (winter) holidays,” said Laura J. Waitz, senior managing director and global head of human relations. On the Friday before Christmas, Blackstone opens its Park Avenue headquarters to employees and their families to enjoy lots of activities, lots of elves, and “lots of sweet things. ... It is so much fun and I'm really not sure who has more fun, the adults or the kids,” Ms. Waitz said.