My one-day Princeternship at SEI Investments Company, with special thanks to Susan Ramonat ’80, Director of Enterprise Risk Management, allowed me to gain a good understanding of all aspects of the company and the people.
SEI’s sprawling campus is in Oaks, Pennsylvania, about a half hour car ride outside of Philadelphia on what used to be a barn and farmland. From the first glimpse of the building exterior, one can tell that SEI is unlike other financial services companies. The interior prove to be no less remarkable. From the clean but brightly colored and rustic exteriors to the recycled tire floors and contemporary visual art (courtesy of the West family ), everything about SEI is focused on inspiring employees to think differently. One particularly unique feature of SEI is the lack of offices; everybody sits in the center of the floor (including the CEO, Al West) with all furniture on wheels and electricity supplied through “pythons,” which are proprietary, coiled power cords that hang from the ceiling. This allows employees to relocate easily, which more importantly promotes a free exchange of ideas.
Other features of the SEI campus include a gym, cafeteria, café, dry cleaner, babysitter and a concierge service that helps employees with everything from delivering roses to getting a car’s oil changed. All of these amenities are designed to allow employees to not only be as productive as possible with their time but to allow for a good work/life balance. In this aspect, SEI seems to be more like a modern tech company than a financial services company, bringing a bit of Silicon Valley to the Northeast.
My day at SEI was highly productive with a packed schedule letting me meet seven people over different business units. SEI’s business includes investment processing, investment operations, and investment management.
SEI’s investment processing business mainly involves the SEI Wealth Platform, a software solution that allows investment managers to manage their client’s portfolios across different global markets. The SEI Wealth Platform is customized for each customer according to each customer’s needs and requirements. This requires a great deal of communication between clients and programmers through intermediaries.
SEI’s investment operations business (Investment Manager Services) provides middle-office outsourcing for investment managers and is SEI’s fastest growing business. Essentially, the IMS unit takes care of everything necessary to make a trade occur, making an investment manager’s abstract decisions a reality. SEI also practices what it preaches and outsources some of its work as well. Holly Miller, Managing Director, Middle Office Services, IMS, shared with me that her role is to help make the process as efficient as possible, eliminating jobs (as well as creating new ones) along the way.
In its Investment Management Unit, SEI is a manager of managers. Bill Lawrence, Managing Director, Global Fixed Income Investment Strategy, IMU, was also very helpful in his advice, explaining not only how his work differed from that of several other jobs in the financial services industry but also how he looked for investment managers. He focused on analyzing the 5 P’s: people, philosophy, process, profile, and performance.
After gaining a better understanding of SEI’s business units, I spent more time with my alumni host, Susan, to learn how she looked at all aspects of SEI. As Director of Enterprise Risk Management, she has to look for potential business risks in everything from the company’s many vendors and outsourcing suppliers to the company’s own employees to the potential of terrorists cutting the underground sea cables that allows the company in the U.S. to connect via the Internet with its people in India. I found the sheer amount of knowledge required—every single little detail about the company’s operations – the global markets, regulations, security and infrastructure—to be extremely impressive and interesting.
My day at SEI allowed me to see many potentially worthwhile career paths in the company. The work done is meant to make the company more resilient and to serve entrepreneurs who have already taken on risk and reaped the benefits, which is very meaningful and interesting.