Relationships that work

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When Bill Tillotson began his investment career four decades ago, the concept of financial planning was a nascent one.

Coming out of insurance sales, Tillotson thought it only natural that investment advisers needed to know the full breadth of their clients’ financial goals, responsibilities and assets before they could offer sound advice.

“How can you tell people what to do with their investments without knowing what their situation is?” says Tillotson.

Out of that conviction came a concept called Masterplan, a comprehensive plan for personal financial management. Masterplan has evolved and grown, but the premise that effective financial planning requires close long-term relationships with clients has remained.

Tillotson, now chairman of investment advisory firm Hefren-Tillotson, believes the emphasis on trusting relationships accounts in large measure for the quality of the company’s employees and their high level of job satisfaction. That was demonstrated last year when the company was selected the best medium-sized company — defined as those with 50 to 250 employees — to work for by the 100 Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania award program.

The program, sponsored by public and private entities, includes a survey of each participating company’s employees. Those results comprise 75 percent of a company’s score, so employee attitudes and opinions weigh heavily.

Kim Tillotson Fleming, the company’s president, cites low turnover, teamwork and civic involvement as signs of job satisfaction at Hefren-Tillotson. The strong relationships advisers form with their clients, she says, translate into close bonds among employees.

“I think that carries right over to the company,” says Tillotson Fleming.

While the nature of the work accounts for high levels of job and company satisfaction, there are other factors. The company pays an annual bonus in those years when profits warrant it. That may come as no surprise, but Tillotson notes that when the company couldn’t pay bonuses last year, employees didn’t grumble.

The company also offers a tuition plan for career-related education, stock options, generous compensation plans and opportunities for advancement.

But its selection process in choosing employees may be one of the most important reasons workers find the company a good long-term fit. Tillotson Fleming says that in an industry in which superstars often hop from one firm to another for a better deal, Hefren-Tillotson’s ranks have remained remarkably stable.

Says Tillotson: “If you just want to buy and sell and play the game, we’re not interested.” How to reach: www.hefren.com