Pensions & Investments | Best Places to Work in Money Management-James Dondero

At Highland Capital Management, L.P., healthcare is free of premiums and deductibles. Breakfast foods are available for staff to prepare, lunches are free up to an allowance of $15 daily and if working late, dinners as well.

“In theory, if you’re an analyst and you’re working here 60 to 70 hours a week, you don’t have to go home to eat,” said Mark K. Okada, co-founder and chief investment officer.

“It’s…the most amazing benefits of anyone I know,” one employee, echoing sentiments of other employees in the employee survey for Best Places to Work in Money Management. The firm’s long list of perks includes free gym memberships, on-site discounted dry cleaning and free parking.

Once a year the entire staff takes off for a two-day retreat “to a very nice resort or spa,” Mr. Okada said. “We have a lot of fun in those outings,” including team building and playing games, as well as education on current trends from a global market and economic standpoint, Mr. Okada said.

Highland Capital has a self-serving interest in offering all those and other what another employee calls the “second-to-none” benefits and perquisites.

“As far as the perks of the firm, the overarching principle is: Let’s make sure people are focused on what they are supposed to be doing with their job,” Mr. Okada said. The benefits and perks “really keep (staff members) focused on what the investor needs them to be focus on.”

James D. Dondero, co-founder and president, said: “As an independent firm, what you gravitate toward is best practices because … you’re competing against much larger, more stronger-resourced firms.”

“We compete in the investment management industry, (which) is incredibly competitive,” Mr. Okada said. “Investment managers are only as good as their people. Our firm has been fairly successful. So I would say that the reason why Highland is a great place to work is because we have really, really good people.”

Highland Capital has “a culture that encourages achievement and rewards it,” Mr. Dondero said. It “has a flat organizational structure, doing away with hierarchy as much as possible.”

“Both James and I are still portfolio managers,” Mr. Okada said. “We have an open-door policy. It’s a very collaborative culture. We work in teams. We make team decisions.”

“Individual contributions get recognized and rewarded,” Mr. Okada said. “I don’t think people are looking for perks primarily. People come to work at a place because they want to be successful. They want to be recognized for what they do. We attract very strong people that way.”’

Beyond serving clients, Highland Capital and staff members reach out to the community through charitable and educational activities.

“We aren’t just donating to a cause,” Mr. Dondero said. “We are coming alongside that cause as an investor, providing a significant amour of resources in order to rally (and) grow their organization to be able to serve their constituencies.”

Highland Capital provides matching donations generally up to $300 to each employee’s own cause, Mr. Okada said.