Morningstar: The Company That Works!

Morningstar: The Company That Works!


Bevin Desmond

I was first introduced to Morningstar 12 years ago when I was in executive search.  They were then located in a bright, airy loft-like space on Franklin & Wacker. Impressed with the structure of the company, I knew it was something special and it would do very well.  I was struck by the openness of the not only the work environment, but the employees that worked at this firm.  


Founded by then 27-year old Joe Mansueto in 1984, Morningstar was created to offer transparency to mutual funds.  What impressed me most about this firm was their understanding and support of their employees, offering a 6-week sabbatical after 4-years of employment and no cap on sick days or vacation time.  It is still the case even after the firm went public, in 2005.  Though many do not take the sabbatical per se, they know they can if they need to.


This is the same for doctor's appointments, funerals, or visiting your ill parents, it is all accepted here and encouraged.  Morningstar believes that their employees should take the time they need to deal with their personal lives appropriately.  Morningstar spends time and money training their employees and selects only the best from recent college grads for their 2-year training program called the Morningstar Development Program (MDP). 


I met with Bevin Desmond, President of International Operations & Global HR to talk to her about the firm.  Bevin was one of three employees that started the company's international business in the late 1990's.  She has been with Morningstar since 1993, where she has held a number of positions, including President of Institutional software.  She just took a short sabbatical of her own for the care of her 11 month-old triplets! Her husband also works at the firm who she met at the company, which makes it convenient for their lives.


Bevin says, "Employees have the job freedom to take consensual time off.  If they are sick, we tell them to stay home.  The employees feel responsible for what they do.  They are self-directive. We believe in an atmosphere of respect."  She says that part of their success with retaining their employees is to hire the right people for the company culture.  They spend a lot of time and resources in hiring.


Currently, Morningstar has approximately 3,225 employees worldwide with operation in 26 countries.  Chicago is the world headquarters with approximately 1,300 employees.  China has 1,000 workers, India has 300 and Canada/Australia each has 150 employees.  Other cities such as: Milan, Paris, Copenhagen, Zurich and Madrid have less than 50 workers. 


The popular MDP program is a two year commitment for recent college grads that are lucky enough to get hired.  Morningstar recruits college seniors on-site at about 25 campuses every year, focusing in the mid-west, east and west coast.  This program is central to their success in attracting the next generation of talent for the company.  They look for candidates from most majors, including, liberal arts, marketing, business and technology and say that the type of degree is not as important as the student's prior experience as an intern, volunteer and having a self-motivated, flexible-minded attitude; something they value here at Morningstar. They ask, "What are you doing and what can you contribute?"


They interview hundreds of college students on campus at the various locations, selecting about 100 to come interview at Morningstar corporate where they mingle with other job candidates and Morningstar employees, over dinner and lunch.  Generally, 50-60 recent grads are hired from this group as a MDP candidate, where they will remain for 2-years working in various areas of the firm.  After that they will be given a position in a department based on skills and interest. Starting salary is competitive.


Morningstar also has a few dozen job openings for experienced workers which are listed on their web-site.  It also encourages current workers to apply for open positions which are typically in their sales, marketing, finance, research and technology areas.  It is also easy to transfer to other locations, if there is an opening.  They offer a good healthcare package and have a tuition reimbursement program for an MBA, and offer an educational stipend for classes or books.


The Morningstar headquarters, located on Washington, between Dearborn & State streets, is filled with floor to ceiling windows, glass conference rooms, "talk" areas and open desk seating, replacing the old cubicle bull-pen approach for doing business.  Filled with sunlight over looking the Picasso statue at the Daley Center, it appears to be a collaborative work environment.  It has an upbeat work environment that encourages freedom of thought and a self-sustaining attitude. It is not for all, but for those that are willing to work hard and remain flexible, it is not only a company that "works", it is a prototype for businesses to aspire to.


For more information on open positions at Morningstar or more information check out their web-site at





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