Perspectives

T. Rowe Price: Enduring Values Over 75 Years

When Thomas Rowe Price, Jr., made the bold decision 75 years ago to start his own investment counsel firm, he did so with considerable trepidation.The country was still recovering from the Great Depression, and Mr. Price’s vision for his new enterprise was based on an investment philoso-phy that was generally unknown and untested.“I may be a darn fool for taking this unnecessary risk,” he wrote in his diary in 1937, “but I am going to have the satisfaction of knowing that I tried to build my own business. If I later fail, I will have no regrets.”With T. Rowe Price Associates celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, the firm’s success is testimony that Mr. Price proved neither fool nor failure.

Bedrock Values

Mr. Price retired in 1971 after earning a stellar reputation as a visionary investor, but the firm’s character and culture today reflect the values and principles he considered crucial for success. These included serving the client’s interests first above all else; the importance of fundamental, independent investment research; creating a collaborative environment; encouraging independent thinking and debate; taking a disciplined, long-term view of investment opportunities; and never compromising on the highest ethical standards.“Mr. Price always said, ‘if you take care of your clients, your clients will take care of you,’” says Brian Rogers, the firm’s chairman and a 30-year veteran. “Client success is really what it’s all about, and the reason the company has done well is because our clients have prospered over time.”

Ed Bernard, the firm’s vice chairman, adds, “The three constituencies that we serve—in order of priority—are our clients, our associates, and our corporate stockholders. As a matter of principle, we put clients’ interests first, but we also know that if we do a good job on the first two, T. Rowe  Price stockholders should do just fine.”

 

Mr. Rogers says another “hallmark of the firm’s culture” is encouraging independent thinking and teamwork. Just as a basketball team with five top stars will not succeed unless they play well together, T. Rowe Price believes that communication and collabora-tion are paramount in meeting client needs.“We want to attract and retain smart people who are driven to suc-ceed,” says Jim Kennedy, president and chief executive officer. “But it’s really important that they are team players. We have analysts, portfolio managers, and traders all over the world. We need them to collaborate and share ideas and learn from each other to get the best results.“At the same time,” he adds, “collaboration does not always mean consensus. Independent thinking is critical. Everyone has a voice and is encouraged to speak up because the best idea may come from an associate analyst rather than the chief investment officer. We push each other creatively and constructively. That’s a culture Mr. Price designed and that has been maintained.”Mr. Rogers says, “We try very hard to create an environment where you can disagree and still work closely with each other.” George Roche, the firm’s former president and chairman, says “the company has stayed true to its character. The primary focus has always been to do the right thing, be long-term oriented, and put the client first.”

A Global Firm

Adhering to these principles has enabled T. Rowe Price to become a global investment firm with offices in Asia, Latin America, and Europe, as well as the U.S. Underscoring the firm’s expanding global profile, the number of equity analysts overseas now rivals that in the U.S. T. Rowe Price manages about $577 billion (as of December 31, 2012) in equity and fixed income assets for individual and institutional clients worldwide, including 401(k) plan sponsors, public and private pension plans, endowments, and financial advisors.  The firm has not only expanded its range of investment strategies for clients, which include stocks and bonds in developed and emerging markets overseas and various asset allocation portfolios, but it has also developed industry-leading advisory and other services to help clients reach their financial goals.Asked how Mr. Price might view the firm today if he were still alive, Mr. Kennedy says, “I think he would be proud of where we are in terms of the quality of the people, the quality of the process, and our performance for the clients. That’s what he was all about —performance for the clients.”