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Diversity In Action

Bear Stearns' hands-off culture promotes meritocracy

"Our managers' hearts and heads are in the right place and they're very focused on encouraging diversity in the organization," says a senior director

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Bear Stearns' reputation as a meritocracy has a lot to do with its encouragement of a diverse environment, says Tony Brown, who is both senior managing director and director of staffing and recruiting at the firm. "I've worked at a number of places on Wall Street, and find Bear Stearns the most comfortable," he declares.

Brown has been at Bear Stearns since 2002. He is heavily involved in recruiting for the firm's IT group, which has a staff of about 1,700 spread out in several New York City and New Jersey locations.

"More and more, the IT professional is being partnered with the line manager," Brown notes. "We tend to bring in highly experienced folks: financial-services-savvy professionals at the programmer and manager levels.

"There's a very 'hands-off' sense to our culture," Brown explains. "We need to preserve a meritocracy that is promising to everyone. So we bring you in and give you the tools to be successful, and you either do it or you don't. The people who do best will rise to the top.

"We're able to make it work because we're so small," he adds. "The business units have a great deal of autonomy and we're fortunate to have enlightened managers running them. Their hearts and heads are in the right place and they're very focused on promoting diversity within the organization."

When it comes to recruiting and staffing, Brown notes, Bear Stearns has "built diversity into all we do.

"We have men, women and just about every underrepresented group on our teams. We've told our recruiting agencies that we're interested in seeing diverse candidates. It's my strong belief that women and minorities, particularly at the graduate level, tend to bring a very strong element of fit and connections to their decisions about where to work."

Affinity groups are a key tool for the firm. They are considered an important element in recruiting and retention. The members go beyond their own personal networking, Brown says, to consider what the groups can do to identify and recruit diverse talent. Some, for example, send speakers to business school conferences.

Brown remembers with delight the chain of events set in motion when a summer intern spoke up to ask a senior exec about the firm's career path for women. As a result of this prompt, a panel of senior women from all the company's businesses was brought together to discuss their careers. Everyone was welcome to come, with a special invite for female interns, associates and analysts.

"This is something that was a long time coming and we are happy to see it in place," Brown says.

Informal mentoring is a strong tradition within Bear Stearns, Brown notes, and formal programs are now under way. He cites a program within the women's networking group, special mentoring developed for new hires, and programs now being developed for diverse employees which will be centered in the affinity groups.

The senior management at Bear Stearns, Brown notes, "are people who worked their way up. So our culture has a very strong sense of the need to give back. This is one of the most 'giving' firms I've ever been a part of."


Bear Stearns

Headquarters: New York, NY
Employees: 12,000 worldwide
Revenues: $7.5 billion in 2005
Business: Global investment banking, securities trading and brokerage


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