As one of the Bay Area’s best kept secrets, Barclays Global Investors is one of the world’s leading investment management companies. With assets under management of around $2.0 trillion BGI is actively expanding its products and services to maintain its edge in the marketplace. They are currently recruiting for over 150 positions at their San Francisco headquarters. Chris McCrum, Head of Human Resources, discusses the company’s expansion goals and what it is like to work for such a global organization.
Describe the current growth trends at BGI.
We have been predominantly an equity manager and are growing in fixed income and in alternatives such as hedge funds. Our exchange-traded funds, called iShares, are also a recent part of the growth story and we have a dominant position in one of the fastest growing sectors in the financial services industry.
In what areas are you hiring?
We are looking for people for front office people in our product areas and also people with strong financial sales and marketing skills. When you grow the revenue you need to add operating staff in line with that so we are also looking for people in information technology for both programming and infrastructure, also operations, risk, compliance, legal, HR and finance.
What is the work culture like at BGI?
BGI is firstly a collegial place. We also have a pretty strong academic heritage, though that doesn’t make it nerdy. We have a lot of ‘quants’ [quantitative researchers] and in addition to being smart they are a pretty interesting bunch of people. They happen to have PhDs but many have other interests and for example we have quite a few people with strong artistic streaks. We like people who have academic curiosity but are interested in applying it to the marketplace. The applied science of investing is what we’re after.
What type of background are you looking for when it comes to new hires?
For the graduate program we hire a number of PhDs and MBAs, many with degrees in areas such as statistics, physics, finance, mathematics. We like people with good commercial sense. We find those that have worked in strategy consulting firms have a good set of skills that are very deployable here. We also hire people with non-advanced degrees. We want people who have a mix of pure and applied thinking. We have also hired people from the Masters in Finance Engineering Program at Cal-Berkeley.
Where do you find your employees?
All over the world. We have transferred a lot of people from different countries. There are a lot of Australians in our London office, for example. We also have a strong graduate program where we have over fifty graduates per year and about thirty five interns. We are building up a strong pipeline of applicants.
What recruitment efforts work best for your company?
We have an active employee referral program that has been a real win forus. We also do a lot of recruitment on campuses. We also have a lot of BGI ‘alumni’ who come back to work for us. This is fertile ground for finding key senior hires.
How is BGI different from other companies in the industry?
There’s a couple of things to highlight. This is a team based environment since our investment process is formed around collaboration. The people are non-political. Politicians and high-egos don’t do well here. It is a very curious, thoughtful, innovative place.
What would surprise people about BGI?
We’re not in anyway a stuffy place – it s a pretty youthful workplace. Sometimes when people think of financial services they think of older people, but our average age is around 35.
What are the challenges to working at BGI?
One challenge with all the innovation is that we are at risk of innovating too much. We are working now to prioritize our innovation and systematize it so innovation happens in a more organized fashion. Another challenge is our high growth. This can affect cultural assimilation, but we have implemented a robust on-boarding program that helps with assimilating people technically and, most importantly, helps people develop cultural connections. We have senior-level people at BGI give talks on how to manage your career, for example.
What is the turnover rate?
We have a pretty low turnover, about 12% which is below industry average. I would say less than a third of that is people leaving because they are dissatisfied. For the most part it is people who have families that move or they go and do something completely different than financial services.
What do you like the most about working at BGI?
The people. One of the things I love most about my job is that I get to meet fascinating people inside and outside of BGI. It is one of the most interesting places to work because of the diversity, breadth, and international focus. What I heard about BGI before coming here has more than played out over time. You come across some very smart, very interesting people.