Virtus Investment Partners, which has 187 employees in Hartford and 348 overall, earned the Courant/FOX CT Top Workplaces award in the midsize-employer category for 2013.
Below is the full story about Medical Risk Managers from Hartford Courant reporter Matthew Sturdevant:
HARTFORD – Everyone is treated like an important part of the company at Virtus Investment Partners, the Hartford-based asset management firm that spun off from The Phoenix Cos. five years ago.
And that’s not just lip service at the fast-growing asset management firm. With a staff of nearly 400, Virtus has, in fact, had a historic run on Wall Street. From the time that its stock started trading on Jan. 2, 2009, through mid-August, the Dow Jones Industrial Average nearly doubled — and Virtus shares grew an astounding 18-fold.
The company’s success translates to better pay for workers because they receive cash incentives that are aligned with the company’s success. And as the company has grown, it has created opportunities for employees to take on more responsibility, and openings for new hires.
“We have four people training right now,” said Brian Haggerty, who manages the internal sales desk.
This picture of growth and gains helped push Virtus to the No. 1 position among midsize employers in the Courant/Fox CT Top Workplaces competition for 2013. It’s a small-enough operation that each person has a direct influence on the firm’s performance.
“You can make an impact here,” said Ken Scigulinsky, who manages independent sales.
Both Haggerty and Scigulinsky said they like that Virtus has a unique approach, using different boutique experts in investments. The firm also empowers portfolio managers in the company to use their own method, rather than conforming to a corporate culture.
“We let them stick to their approach,” Haggerty said.
Compensation also is tied to performance. Most of the incentive is cash, although there is some equity, and it’s based on metrics that are the same for top management and everyone else.
Virtus said it employed 187 people at its Hartford office on Pearl and Trumbull streets and 348 companywide at the time of the Top Workplaces survey in the spring. As of April, the company had hired 62 people in the previous 12 months and had plans to hire 47 in the coming 12 months.
Virtus is one of the fastest-growing public asset managers, with an organic growth rate of 38 percent last year for mutual funds, compared with low single-digit growth in the industry. The company manages $51.2 billion in assets.
Virtus has a unique way of designing its investment funds to offer variety while partnering with other firms who have expertise in specific fields, such as equity or alternatives.
“Our model is differentiated; there’s only a few people who do it the way that we do it,” said Virtus CEO and President George Aylward, who finished in first place for outstanding leadership at midsize employers in the 2012 Top Workplaces competition.
The growth makes for an exciting place to work for Virtus wholesalers throughout the country meeting with financial advisers and for the support staff in Hartford. The young staff members — people in their 20s and 30s — are measured by their activity, such as phone calls.
But rewards come from the company’s results.
“There’s multiple pieces. Some people are successful because they either have a great sales force, or they’re successful because they have one or two great products, or they’re successful because they’re really great on execution,” Aylward said.
Workers are more motivated now that Virtus is a standalone entity rather than part of a large insurance company.
“We are a pure-play, focused asset management [company]. That’s all we do,” Aylward said. “Whenever you’re part of a multi-line business, someone’s doing well, someone’s not doing well, there’s no line of sight. So, for an individual when they look at their paycheck everyday, or once a year when they get a bonus, their line of sight to how the company’s doing can be blurred.”
Being an asset management company strips away any ambiguity about performance. Culturally, asset management is different from insurance, too. Insurance has a long-term time horizon focused on leveraging a balance sheet and maximizing return on equity, while asset management is shorter term and more dynamic.
“Culture should fit the business that you’re in, and they’re very different,” Aylward said of insurance and asset management. “A lot of the fundamental strategy and underpinnings were there when we were wholly owned, but we couldn’t execute. We were the non-core, unwelcome subsidiary of a life insurance company. So, the spin was the greatest thing that happened to all of us.”
The company started off occupying two floors of a downtown office building in Hartford. Then a third floor was added, and then part of a fourth as Virtus grows its workforce with offices in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Boston.
Aylward talks to all the workers at a quarterly meeting.
“We don’t treat them like children. We treat them like important contributors because for us we really think everything has to work well. A high-profile [portfolio manager] is critical to the organization and so is someone overseeing compliance. Everyone has a role to play.”
VIRTUS INVESTMENT PARTNERS AT A GLANCE:
Business: Diversified asset management
Local Employees: 187
Internal sales consultants hoping to move to field sales participate in a twice-yearly “presentation skills” competition, making a 10-minute “pitch” about a Virtus mutual fund. The winner gets a prize, bragging rights and possession of the “Golden Rotator” trophy.
Virtus employees paid $5 a week to dress in casual clothes on Fridays to raise money for charity.
Why It Won:
Spectacular growth, profit gains and stock runup brings a dynamic culture and big rewards for employees.
Managers are empowered to use their own methods to operate funds rather than conform to a unified system.
As a focused asset management firm no longer part of Phoenix, Virtus has an unambiguous culture apart from insurance.
“I’m constantly learning and everyone is pulling in the same direction.”
“…competitiveness versus outside money management firms, great team that works together extremely well, autonomy, and the growth in assets that our group has achieved along with the overall firm….the signficant and continued appreciation in the stock price is an additional motivator.”