Culture drives everything.
In 2016, I had the privilege of meeting the leadership team of Wellington in their head office in Boston. I was so impressed by their culture that I have talked about them in my Leading Change workshops ever since. Culture drives everything in business – employee behaviour, customer experience, the ability to innovate and change, and of course performance. If you want to assess a potential fund manager, understanding their culture is an excellent place to start.
Most companies construct lengthy and often convoluted vison and values statements. Wellington’s is just three words: ‘Client, Firm, Self’ which sums up their approach more succinctly than any other company I have known. And it is authentic.
Their culture is built on two concepts, collaboration and stewardship, and they are relentlessly genuine about both of them. I had the pleasure of observing their Morning Meeting in their hi-tech ‘in-the-round’ lecture hall / auditorium in which sat a hundred or more investment professionals with just as many joining via video link, and I witnessed genuine collaboration Wellington-style at first hand.
One analyst stood up and declared that he was bearish about the particular industry that was in the spotlight that day, explained why and consequently recommend selling a specific stock. Another followed the first and, using the same data, explained why she was actually bullish about the sector and recommend buying the very same stock. Each analyst listened to the other, was courteous and respectful, but firm. Neither was out to score points; they were out to listen and learn – while still retaining their obvious sense of self-confidence. It was simply the best example of constructive challenge that I have ever witnessed. Genuine collaboration is exceedingly rare in the world of business, let alone the ultra-competitive world of investment management. Client. Firm. Self.
The other trait I admire is the concept that underpins their approach to leadership; a rare managerial principle called stewardship. The New Zealand All Blacks call it ‘legacy’. A key driver of every leader, manager and team leader through Wellington is the determination to leave their part of the business in a state that is better than when they found it. It is the simplest and yet most profound of leadership principles and it is a philosophy that I urge every one of my clients to adopt. The fact that Wellington is a private partnership and therefore doesn’t need to be as distracted by short-term share prices and the demands of all-too-frequent reporting cycles almost certainly plays a significant role in their ability to adopt stewardship so successfully. It also helps portfolio managers take a long-term view. Commitment to the environment and the communities in which they operate are also key tenets of the Wellington philosophy.
Wellington’s clients are some of the world’s largest institutional investors and they manage funds on behalf of several of the world’s largest fund managers. Ask your adviser about them or, if you are investing yourself, look a little closer at the next fund you are about to buy. It may be managed by Wellington.