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How hard work and meaningful relationships fuel Bridgewater Associates’ success

The asset management firm’s pioneering workplace culture has made it one of Fortune’s Best Workplaces in New York.

Bridgewater Associates knows it asks a lot of its employees. The asset management firm in Westport, Conn. expects its workers to perform at the top of their game every day. That’s why Bridgewater is committed to providing a purposeful, rewarding, and inclusive work environment that promotes continual growth.

“Our people are very important to us,” says Nir Bar Dea, the company’s deputy CEO. “The experience is demanding, but it develops an ethos and creates relationships that extend well beyond the workplace.”

The emphasis on high standards and continuous learning was established by Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio in the company’s early days. The industry icon and author of the bestselling business book Principles started the firm in 1975 out of his two-bedroom Manhattan apartment. Today, the company is led by CEO David McCormick and is the world’s largest hedge fund with $150 billion in assets under management.

“Ray set in motion a flywheel that continues to push the next generation of leaders today,” Bar Dea says. “We put an emphasis on constant improvement and being brutally honest with each other, especially when things go wrong.”

The firm’s meritocratic culture also offers unique opportunities for growth, which drive employees to work their hardest. “The ability to advance very quickly has been great,” says investment associate Kate Dunbar, who joined the firm straight out of undergrad four years ago. “People push you to take on as much as you’re willing to take on.”

Bridgewater’s environment requires a certain intensity, which is why leadership makes sure the employee experience is rewarding both professionally and personally. The firm offers a slate of community and career-building opportunities. It boasts nearly 100 community groups that span from dog lovers to military veterans, and its employee affinity groups host events that celebrate all aspects of its diverse community. It also provides best-in-class benefits, including a new flexible paid time off policy, generous fertility support and parental leave, and 100% health insurance coverage.

“When we ask so much of our people, we’re also constantly thinking about how to adequately give back to them,” Bar Dea says. “We know that being in it for the long haul—with our clients and with our employees—pays off in spades.”

When the pandemic hit, Bridgewater developed new ways to ensure its newly remote workforce was taken care of. The firm offered at-home COVID-19 testing for employees who felt sick, expanded mental health support, and sought new benefits to support what was a new reality for many. And when people began returning to the office, company leadership facilitated safe, outdoor meetings.

Innovative solutions like these are part of Bridgewater’s brand, which expects every employee to be part of the process that identifies problems and uses them as fuel for improvement. It seems to work for their employees: A quarter of them have been at the firm for more than a decade. It’s also created a vibrant and expansive alumni network.

“We are going to keep looking for ways to maximize the experience for our employees,” says Bar Dea. “It is very important to us that they are successful.”