The Evolving Talent Landscape
An Interview with Peter Grauer, Chairman, Bloomberg LP
Bloomberg LP sits at the intersection of financial services, media, and technology, some of the most competitive talent markets in the world. What strategies are employed to attract/retain talent within these fields?
Some might see competing for the best people across finance, media and technology simultaneously as a challenge. We see it as an opportunity. Firstly, because highly desirable and competitive markets produce the best talent pools - and Bloomberg has a great track record of attracting, developing and retaining the very best from across the world. Secondly, because the blend of these diverse industries and backgrounds creates a one-of-a-kind environment. When you mix media, technology and financial professionals together in an environment like Bloomberg’s, you are able to achieve some incredible things. I could point to a range of factors that help us to remain competitive, from our compensation structure to our blue chip client base, but I think the number one reason people are attracted to Bloomberg and stay here is the entrepreneurial culture that was instilled by our founder. In many ways we are the largest start-up in the industry. Many of our company leaders—such as our global head of financial products—have not only been with the company for a long time but started in a relatively junior role and have been consistently promoted.
During the last economic downturn, in which most financial services firms were contracting, Bloomberg actually expanded its workforce. What was the strategy behind that seemingly counter-intuitive move and how has it paid off?
Bloomberg has a long and successful track record of doing the unconventional. When we were founded in 1981, we were frequently told that it would be impossible to outcompete the entrenched providers. We’ve consistently bucked received wisdom by taking counterintuitive approaches. In 2008 and 2009 we realized the biggest threat to our business was not the headline layoffs, as many assumed it would be, but the c-suite focus on value and return on capital. We invested in our product, on the R&D side but also on the client service side, to sit down one-on-one with every Bloomberg user and demonstrate how to get the most value out of the service. In many cases we showed our clients how functions on the Terminal could actually replace other solutions they were paying for and save them money. Consequently, we were able to grow revenues through the recession when many others retrenched and we emerged stronger than ever.
How is Bloomberg approaching diversity in respect to its talent and governance?
In addition to my role as the Chairman of Bloomberg I am also delighted to be the founding Chairman of the US 30% Club and on the board of Out Leadership. One of the topics we’ve been focused on at the 30% Club has been the growing body of increasingly convincing data and research showing that companies that encourage diversity, and are inclusive in their culture, enjoy better business results. As a data company, Bloomberg cannot ignore what the numbers tell us. It has become increasingly clear to me that diversity and inclusion isn’t just about doing the right thing for our people. It’s also about doing the right thing for our company. Today, the war for the best people is greater than ever and we need to access the full pool of talent; diversity is a business imperative as much as it is an ethical imperative.
And so, while we still have further to go, Bloomberg has undertaken a number of initiatives in the last year to make diversity a more central business initiative. In March, we filled a new position: Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion and together we have spearheaded a number of initiatives focused broadly around the four important areas of employee recruitment, development, retention and bold new ideas. To retain diverse talent we are rethinking the way we recognize, promote and incentivize people. I am intensely focused on dismantling the inherent and unconscious barriers many organizations erect for underrepresented individuals. To this end, one of the more visible steps we’ve taken this year is to revise our Parental Leave Policy to increase paid time off. We’ve also increased the flexibility of using that time off for working parents.
To develop our existing talent, we’ve begun hosting a number of educational and training programs for our employees globally, specifically aimed at strengthening our culture of awareness around inclusion, including unconscious bias training to help us better understand the many we ways we make assumptions which influence our actions through the course of a day.
I have also charged each of our business-level managers at Bloomberg to develop their own diversity and inclusion plans. Having advocates for diversity like me at the top is helpful, but to bring about real organizational change we know it cannot simply be a top down exercise: it has to be encouraged at all levels of our business. Organizations still need to do more to drive accountability for diversity and inclusion throughout their firms.
What can firms be doing to build stronger and more diverse pipelines?
We are in the middle of an incredibly intense war for talent around the world. To have access to the widest possible range of talent, all firms have to create a welcoming environment and provide gifted individuals opportunities to develop and grow.
At Bloomberg, we’re concentrating on the identification and development of talent across underrepresented groups to ensure we have a strong pool of candidates available for positions at all levels of the company. Our recruiting strategy mirrors this effort.
In addition to the 30% Club, we continue to build our relationships with organizations like Out Leadership, American Corporate Partners, the Toigo Foundation, Lime Connect, Anita Borg Institute and the Council for Urban Professionals that allow us to host events, network and sponsor Bloomberg colleagues at diversity conferences and development programs.
We also support eight Bloomberg Communities, diversity networks that offer colleagues a platform to share experiences, influence diversity recruiting efforts and encourage leadership development.
In your career, what factors did you consider when joining a new firm or taking on a new assignment?
Throughout my career there have been several consistent factors I always considered when taking a new position. For anyone considering a move I would encourage them to ask themselves the following questions: On the firm side, are the people you meet that represent the firm the type of people you want to be associated with during long hours together? Does the firm have a stellar reputation? What is the culture and is it compatible with your values and aspirations? Is there a higher purpose to the organization which transcends the daily routine and engagement, and enables the firm to stand out? Is the work going to be intellectually stimulating and will you be stretched consistently? In a new assignment, can you make a unique, important and lasting contribution? For my own part, when Michael Bloomberg asked me to be Bloomberg’s CEO, the answer was a resounding ‘yes’ to all of these questions and I knew I was being offered the opportunity of a lifetime.