Vanguard Group recently added 1,300 jobs and, perhaps more impressive, $318 billion in assets since the bear market ended in 2003.

The advantage it commands as the low-cost mutual fund family is so formidable that the Malvern, Pa., firm is "guaranteed the segment of the market that is price-sensitive," said Louis Harvey, president of Dalbar, a Boston consulting firm, in an Aug. 21 report from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

If you can give investors good, steady performance and low costs, that's a powerful combination," said Michael S. Miller, a Vanguard managing director and its chief strategist.

But, the Inquirer notes, if Vanguard's managers are confident of having a place at the table, they cannot be sure what the financial markets will dish up. The industry is also maturing and consolidating.

Vanguard faces challenges from the American Funds family and Barclays Global Investors, in addition to archrival Fidelity Investments. American Funds has been growing fastest.

Nonetheless, the firm is hoping to fill several hundred more job openings.

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