Continuing the steady, egalitarian approach to running Vanguard that founder Jack Bogle began, current CEO Jack Brennan continues the firm’s open-door policy and attempt to keep executives with the firm for a long time by rotating them frequently to make their jobs more intriguing and by promoting from within, The Financial Times reports. And part of this egalitarian approach means there is no executive dining room and even the top executives, Brennan included, answer phones at the call center when volume gets heavy.
And when new employees join the company, even if they’re fresh out of college, Brennan tells them: “We hope this is your last job.”
The approach seems to be working. The turnover at Vanguard over the past 30 years has averaged less than 7% a year, one of the lowest rates for any company in the U.S. And because Vanguard is mutually owned by its investors and run at cost, it charges some of the very lowest fees of any asset management firm, another key reason for its success.
Perhaps more impressively, Vanguard is the top-selling mutual fund company through October of this year, taking in $64 billion, bringing its total assets under management to more than $1.3 trillion.
As to Brennan’s individual style, he says he prides himself on hard work and long hours, reporting to duty every morning at 6 a.m. and putting in 13- or 14-hour days. Discipline, teamwork and a straightforward approach also figure among his priorities.
“We’re a ‘no distractions’ place,” Brennan said. “There’s not a lot of golf that goes on at Vanguard. If you’re here, you’re here long hours.”
And as to the practice of moving people around to very different jobs, Brennan explains: “Our former head of IT now runs our retail business. The man who runs marketing used to be our external institutional [sales]person. The man who ran Europe just came back to head internal audit. We want to round people out so they can be as effective as they can.”
Brennan also says there are many advantages to remaining a privately held firm, least not of which is being able to “think about our business in a very long-term way. One quarter, one month or one year of cash-flow data doesn’t mean that much to us. We’ve never had a growth objective. Our objective is fund performance and the quality of what we do.”