In 1997, Vanguard Group opened in Charlotte after the mutual fund giant searched for another U.S. city in which to put offices and expand beyond locations in Arizona and its headquarters in Pennsylvania.
Now, 20 years after the Charlotte offices launched, Vanguard’s chief executive says the operation just south of Charlotte Douglas International Airport employs 1,700 – and could add several hundred more over the next three years.
“When markets are up and new business is coming in, we’re always growing. Today, the company has been growing at a pretty good clip from a people standpoint,” CEO William McNabb told the Observer on Thursday during a visit to Charlotte partly to commemorate the 20th anniversary.
Vanguard, the world’s largest mutual fund company, is spread across four buildings on its Charlotte campus, which houses employees in a variety of roles. Many of those work directly with savers (think parents interested in setting up a college-savings fund for their children). Other jobs include human resources and information technology, with IT alone accounting for about 25 percent of Vanguard’s Charlotte workforce, McNabb said.
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“A lot of the most important developments that are happening from a technology standpoint have been led out of Charlotte. We’ve found this to be a great area to attract really high-quality IT talent,” he said. “IT development is still really robust here ... and continuing to grow.”
McNabb, who is 60 and has served as chief executive since 2008, said he visits Charlotte at least twice a year. Worldwide, the company employs about 15,000.
Vanguard has been “aggressively” hiring for its offices in Scottsdale, Ariz.; Malvern, Pa.; and around the world, where it has operations in 17 countries, McNabb said. Last year, Vanguard picked up $300 billion in net new investments to manage from both new and existing clients, he said.
McNabb cited the banking talent in Charlotte, headquarters to Bank of America and home to operations for other banks, as a key reason Vanguard opened offices here two decades ago. The biggest factor was Charlotte’s proximity to the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, as well as Charlotte’s burgeoning technology footprint, he said.
It’s difficult to put an exact number on expected Vanguard job growth in Charlotte, he said. But one of the fastest-growing areas of local employment is roles serving customers seeking a “full advisory relationship” – “where they say, ‘We love your products, but I don’t even want to think about this. I just want to give you the keys to the car.’”
McNabb, who took the helm just as the financial crisis was revving up, recalled making the rounds with investors at that time to allay concerns as stocks tumbled. More recently, he’s found himself fielding questions from investors wondering what the policies of President Donald Trump, Britain’s vote last year to leave European Union and other political events might mean for their portfolios.
His advice to investors in these uncertain times?
“As distasteful as the headlines can be, and as challenging as they can be, you basically have to ignore them and you have to think long term,” he said.
“Figure out your goals, know what you’re investing for, understand the time frame, get the appropriate asset allocation based on that time frame and your tolerance for risk, and, in a sense, set it and forget it.”