Kenneth Griffin: Building an Empire By Embracing Employees

September 23rd, 2015

Kenneth Griffin is a successful hedge fund manager. That much, everyone in the financial world is well aware of: Ken Griffin is the founder and CEO of Citadel, LLC, a massive Chicago-based hedge fund that has become a major player on the world financial markets in the past 25 years. Many are also well aware of his rise from a novice investor plying the markets for profits as a Harvard undergraduate to his current status as one of the United States’s youngest self-made billionaires and a consistent presence on the Forbes 400 list. His effect on the money management scene cannot be overstated: he was consistently chosen by Congress to testify about market regulation and government (and industry) failure in this regard, and rewarded Congress’s decision to call him with balanced and insightful testimony that indicted parties in both sectors for ethical and legal lapses along with poor financial judgement.

This much about Griffin is all well known in broad sectors of society, but what is not so well known is the importance of employee happiness and contentedness in his leadership philosophy. Griffin gave an eloquent speech at the Milken Institute Global Conference entitled “The Intangibles of Building a Great Hedge Fund: People as an Asset Class” that redefined the way that many in the financial industry thought about the relationship between employees and their employer. Griffin elaborated on the importance of employees to the success of a particular business, and noted the lengths to which he and his executive team went to ensure that Citadel’s employees were properly compensated. These compensations were and still are not restricted to monetary sources; Citadel employees currently reap the benefits of perks such as free lunches, museum tours and personal fitness memberships. In fact, Citadel was recently voted among the Top 10 best workplace environments in the financial services industry. The ‘Great Places to Work’ Institute credited Griffin with fostering a collaborative work culture that invited opinion and dissent from the board room to the services floor to the company shareholders.

Griffin did not rise to his enviable position by neglecting his employees or abusing those underneath him; rather, he has shown that he truly values his employees as tangible assets and is committed to restoring sanity to an industry workplace that is awash in abusive employer-employee relationships. As Griffin and Citadel continue to experience greater and greater success in the financial services and hedge fund sector, we will see if the rest of the financial world takes note and begins to adhere more closely to Griffin’s leadership policies. Employees of financial companies outside of Citadel can only cross their fingers and hope!

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