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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio: There’s a Cultural ‘Misunderstanding’

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The media-shy head of Westport-based Bridgewater Associates went public today to dispel what he said was a misunderstanding about the culture of the company that runs the world’s largest hedge fund with $87 billion in assets.WestportNow.com Image
Ray Dalio: Employment has been impacted by reports about Bridgewater’s culture which involves intense criticism of employees. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo from CNBC

Ray Dalio, in an appearance on CNBC from Los Angeles, spoke a day after a cover story in a trade journal which said Bridgewater’s rapid expansion had led Dalio to “institute a bizarre culture of criticism.” His firm’s 1,100 employees in four locations make Bridgewater Westport’s largest private employer.

Explaining his decision to appear on the cable business channel, Dalio said, “I’ve been getting too much media attention.”

He added, “Generally speaking there’s a misunderstanding I think a little bit about our culture and reports that’s affected employment and people hiring, and I wanted to clear up some of those points and offer myself out to let people ask me about the culture.”

Dalio, president, CEO, and chief investment officer, said: “We’re a group of independent thinkers. In order to make money in the market, you have to be an independent thinker, and I think creative, you have to be willing to make mistakes.”

Specifically speaking about company policy, Dalio said: “And so the process is that anybody in the company if anything doesn’t make sense to them, they can bring up what doesn’t make sense to them in a non-hierarchical way whether it’s true or not and what we should do about it.”

Previous published reports had highlighted a Bridgewater rule that no employee can criticize another unless that other employee is present.

“We particularly like looking at mistakes or weaknesses that we have in order to get stronger,” Dalio said.

“I believe that the biggest impediment to personal improvement is the ego reaction to making mistakes and if we could just get past that we get to grow at a faster rate. We get to improve at a faster rate. So that’s what our culture is.

“We have a radically transparent culture so that everything is on tape. Everybody can listen to practically every meeting unless it’s just proprietary so because of that openness, we know what’s going on.

“The only problem that we have sometimes is that there’s an ego attachment to looking at one’s mistakes and it’s a shame. So it’s not for everyone and that’s our basic culture.”

The magazine AR, which prompted Dalio’s appearance, called him “an enigmatic character whose economic insights are pored over by central bankers across the globe.”

But it said he is starting to pull back, selling 20 percent of his and his family’s trust equity to senor executives and the firm itself, although he maintains control.

“Moreover, Dalio had been trying to institutionalize the firm’s brutal culture to prepare Bridgewater without him by penning a book to live and work by, which he calls simply, ‘Principles,’” it said.

The balance of the CNBC interview focused on Dalio’s view of the current investment climate. He said there is an opportunity now to make money, especially by investing in non-dollar denominated instruments and gold.

“I think it’s inevitable that the dollar’s role as world currency will diminish from the dominant world currency to one of the few,” he said. “And it will happen over a gradual time.”

He said this was a good time to invest in equities because of the economic cycle.

Posted 03/03 at 09:49 AM


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