Vanguard - Former manager- here's the truth you need to know. | Glassdoor
Pros
Cons
  • "The entry level call center environment is brutal" (in 167 reviews)

  • "Ridiculous long work hours are expected so work/life balance lines are very blurry" (in 54 reviews)

Employee Review

Employee Review

Helpful (244)

"Former manager- here's the truth you need to know."

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  • Work/Life Balance
  • Culture & Values
  • Career Opportunities
  • Comp & Benefits
  • Senior Management
Former Employee - Line Manager in Huntersville, NC
Former Employee - Line Manager in Huntersville, NC
Doesn't Recommend
Negative Outlook
Disapproves of CEO

I worked at Vanguard full-time (More than 8 years)

Pros

Paid licensing, training, will pay for your CFP and MBA if you can get into program. Great non-salary benefits package. 10% contribution to your 401k in addition to standard company match. 401k grows quickly. For health benefits, few people know that VG is actually self insured, meaning our provider is just a record keeper and Vanguard decides what claims they are going to pay and how much. Crew have had severe medical bills (cancer, pre-mature babies) ringing up hundreds of thousands of $, from what I hear, the company has covered most, if not all of them, crew were very grateful. Company has a strong brand, money flows in at will.

Cons

Here's everything you need to know that your managers wont tell you. This is not Jack Bogle's Vanguard anymore. They used to be a great place to work, a family type atmosphere that cared about its crew, showed it in terms of support, growth, and pay, it was common for crew to work 25+ years and retire. Sadly, under Bill McNabb, this has eroded and I only saw it getting worse, that's why I got out. The hundreds of posts on this blog about pay, performance management, and career pathing are true, and I'll explain why so you all can make an informed decision. Let's start with pay- here's the truth. Vanguard has grown exponentially over the last 7 years, mainly on the notion that they're the "low cost provider", and they are. But their dominance in the industry has caused competitors like Schwab and Blackrock to lower their fees as well. They can't compete with Vanguard on average, so they smartly undercut Vanguard on certain individual products. So if you look at a lineup of 20 different funds or ETF's, Vanguard will probably only be the lowest cost on half of them. This is terrifying to the Vanguard brass because although money is flowing in hand over fist, Vanguard has a serious revenue problem. 90% of its cash flow has been into its least expensive (or profitable for the business) product, index funds. So while its great for the clients, its not good for the business. The result is this intensely focused effort to further cut costs to compete, "bend the cost curve" is the common expression. So they have no overhead, and have cut operating costs as low as they can for a $3 trillion company, those cost cuts have to come from somewhere, so you guessed it, they come from employee pay, and that's what you've seen. Vanguard has a company bonus called "Partnership" that is paid out every June. When I first got there, tenured employees got up to 30%of their salary, a nice chunk of change that made up for the lower range salaries comparably to other firms. Well in 2010 they restructured that, and as a result partnership payouts were cut in half for most crew. When they rolled it out they said crew were going to benefit because more money was being allocated to year end performance bonuses. What crew got in bonus was far less than what was taken for them in partnership. And now, it just came out that they re-classified all their jobs, and as a result, 2000 crew who used to be bonus eligible will now be hourly and no longer be eligible for a bonus. So thousands of crew have the double whammy of reduced partnership, and no more bonus. Add in the paltry 2% merit crew get even if they perform well, that's the sentiment you see on so many of these posts. In summary, the trend is clear. Still a great place to invest if you're a client, but it will always be at the expense (literally) of the crew.
Now on to performance management. There is a forced rank system where each manager has to rate their crew's yearly performance in one of four buckets (Distinguished, fully successful, further development needed, does not meet expectations). The scary thing here is that its all based on subjective "soft skill' competencies. Business results matter very little, its all at the discretion of your manager. Depending on who's telling the story at year end, anyone at the company can either be Fully Successful for FDN. I've seen leaders rate crew who are exceeding all their goals get FDN because they have a "bad attitude". You ask them to explain, and they give one example of one ten second exchange from one closed door conversation, without context, and that's all it takes for a "negative" perception to be formed, and you are sunk. That's why the "play the game, be a yes man" comments are so prevalent. What's worse, the dirty secret managers don't want you to know is that behind closed doors they force rankings to fit into a "normal distribution" so that only a certain percentage of crew are distinguished, and a certain percentage of crew have to fall out FDN. As a manager I was forced to change rankings on more than one occasion. I assessed my people in my best judgment, sent it up the chain for approval, and it came back with a "request" to "take a closer look" because we either had too many distinguished, or not enough FDNs. If you stood your ground, you risked your own performance because you are held accountable for "accurately assessing performance", which is code for "agreeing with your boss". Very ugly system, full of inaccuracy, stress, and corruption, and all the employees hate it. But senior managers brag about the pay for performance system as if its a badge of honor.....
Lastly, let's talk career pathing. Vanguard assesses "talent" much like they assess performance. Very little attention is paid to track record, actual results, or experience. Instead, 'talent" is assessed very early on in your tenure, based on if you look the part, present well in group settings, use Vanguard jargon, and network. Most crew don't know this, but senior managers actually have a "talent list' they keep and update. They keep this secret form the crew. You never know who's on, or who's off, or why. And as a common rule of thumb (most managers wont tell the crew this), they won't promote you unless they see you as two levels higher in the future. This is why you see so many managers in their 20's, and why so many 40+ crew complain they can't get promoted. So, if there is a senior manager position open and you have a 45 yr. old line manager with a great track record over several years, even if they're the most qualified, he/she will lose out to a 28 year old line manager with two years of experience because the 28 yr old will be considered "talented", ie: has more time to grow, thus, a better chance to take the next step up to officer. That's consistent at all levels of management. Good, tenured, team leaders can rarely move laterally to other leadership positions because they lose out to "talented crew" who have no experience leading people or leading a business. Again, this explains the negative sentiment about leaders on this site. Google "Vanguard discrimination claims" and you'll see dozens of examples. Vanguard blows these claims off with the excuse that its just the result of being a global company. But do the same search for other companies, and although you see some isolated instances, you don't see the multitude of them like Vanguard has.Vanguard doesn't lay people off, and they like to brag about that,. but here's what they don't tell you. Once you reach a certain point in tenure, they find ways to manage you out. You may have gotten good ratings for years, then all of the sudden a new leader comes along and you're told you're not performing in your job (note above point about leader judgment). So although they don't throw you out in the street, they give you bad ratings and then suggest "finding a different role in the company". So you then have to interview for positions lower than your current level as if you're a stranger coming in from the outside. No attention is paid to your track record, even if you've been a top performer for years, it's all about how you answer a few behavioral based questions in the interview. If you can't find a role on your own, the managers will work with their buddies to place you in a role, usually on the phones, to make you so embarrassed and miserable that you quit. I've seen this happen dozens of times, and honestly, I've done it myself although I'm not proud of it. You did what you had to do to survive, even as a manager you feel the same pressures and are subject to the same biases and performance management flaws. So Vanguard doesn't chop your head off in one swoop like other companies may, but they will poke you with a butter knife until you slowly bleed to death over a longer period of time. You decide what is worse.
The worst part, when they're committing all these atrocities, the culture is to smile at you and act like they actually care. This "nice to your face, but cut your throat behind your back" notion permeates every aspect of Vanguard's leadership culture. I saw so many example of leaders giving speeches about what good leaders should do, but when they run their teams they do the exact opposite, and astonishingly, they don't see it. Every single time there is a change or a big announcement, the management team has endless meetings trying to craft the most positive spin possible, sometimes choosing to leave out details they think the crew won't be able to handle, rather than just tell the crew the truth. Then they'll brag about how transparent they are. This is all predicated on the culture of surface level looks over results, as noted previously. Senior managers have been drinking the kool aid so long they're delusional. There's this quiet arrogance that they never do anything wrong, and if they make decisions against the crew, well, crew just don't understand how business is run. Ugh, so glad I'm out. I feel awful for the thousands of crew who are still there, and are growing increasingly miserable, but stay because they remember the way Vanguard used to be. My advice- Don't let Vanguard brainwash you. Its not the company it used to be. No matter what they say, there are better opportunities out there. You don't have to put up with it.

Advice to Management

Don't be so focused on costs that you create a miserable experience for your loyal crew. Your clients don't care about a few basis points in expense ratios. They want low costs, not necessarily the lowest cost. Take the extra money and compensate your crew. You ask them every year what you (the leadership team) can do to make Vanguard a best place to work, and the crew have told you thousands of times. Listen to them (finally), although its not what you want to hear. Senior leaders- you all are aware of these things. Stop accepting Vanguard's culture as if you're powerless to change it.

Other Employee Reviews

Other Employee Reviews

  1. Helpful (12)

    "Best for entry level, pay is below industry standard, networking is very important"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Client Relationship Specialist in Charlotte, NC
    Former Employee - Client Relationship Specialist in Charlotte, NC
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Vanguard full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    If you are new to finance, specifically investment management, this is a good entry-level job to start your career
    All Series 7 and Series 63 licenses are paid for by the company. They pay you to go through the education to get these licenses. For further development, things like the CFA and CFP certifications, they'll pay for it if you're accepted into their corporate programs.
    Great healthcare benefits
    401k match is nice, up to 4% and an additional quarterly 401k bonus match
    People here are friendly and they actually want to do what's ethically right for the client.

    Cons

    It's a call center environment, why do you think expenses on the mutual funds are so low. Brick and mortar companies can't compete.
    Pay is below industry average. I had friends who quit and went to competitors who paid $20,000 more. So get the experience here and jump ship.
    To move up, it's going to take more than meeting your performance metrics, you better be good at networking. You better schmooze the right team leaders for the next promotion or department you want to move into. This is finance, everything you do to move up is networking, which may suck because if you're a high performer on your team, the hiring manager for a promotion may not hire you just because they don't like you or can't connect with you. So you better have so great people skills.

    Advice to Management

    Morale is low, there's only so much a team leader can do to motivate their team. A nice pay bump would be nice. Charlotte isn't getting any cheaper to live, a call center environment and low salary can make this company not the best place for long term growth. Also moving more specialist groups and departments down to Charlotte would be great way to diversify career paths. Not everyone are fit to be financial advisors or move into leadership, you see a lot of disgruntled people with a lack of career options


  2. Helpful (45)

    "Crew Views"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook

    I have been working at Vanguard full-time (More than 8 years)

    Pros

    If you are a Vanguard investor and qualify for admiral shares your raise included $25 in reduced expense ratios. Of course your health insurance went up $30 this year.

    Cons

    The annual employee survey begins this week. Last year's survey revealed a 10% decline in employee engagement. Rather than make positive changes at the workplace, management has decided to change the questions. Morale is bad and getting worse. Take a look at the average rating on this website, the trend score is rapidly declining. Look at Vanguard's score relative to their major competitors. Vanguard scores statistically below Wells Fargo, Fidelity, and Charles Schwab to name a few.

    Employees, consider this as you are taking the survey this year.

    Q1. I know what is expected of me at work.
    Q2. I have the materials and equipment I need
    Q3. My opinion counts.

    When you think about your response consider this for each question.

    Q1. We do know what is expected of us. You will find out what was expected of you during your year end review. It is expected that you will change the objectives for my job in September several weeks before the review period ends. It is expected that someone significantly younger than you with much less experience will make decisions about how you do your job. In all likelihood you should expect someone from VADP will be your manager's manager.

    Q2. We do have the materials and equipment we need. It's just that they don't work well, if they work at all. We do have the materials and equipment we need but the policy has changed in the last 2 months and no one bothered to tell you. Not only has the workflow changed but there is probably an exception to the policy that no one has shared.

    Q3. Our opinion does count. It counts against me at review time. It counts against me when applying for a promotion. It counts against me when your bonus and raise are decided. My opinion counts toward making me further development needed.

    Advice to Management

    New this year, questions 1 and 2 will allow crew the opportunity to provide candid feedback. Think about that for a minute. The culture at Vanguard is so seriously flawed that the only time you can provide candid feedback is when you provide it anonymously. No one is interested in your opinion.

    Fellow crew... Use this website as a way to provide feedback. Share this review and the others on glassdoor.com. Management wants it to be anonymous, let's make it public too. Make your opinion count!

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