One of America's leading mutual fund companies, American Century Investments was formed by the acquisition of the California-based Benham Group in 1995 by Kansas City-based Twentieth Century Mutual Funds. The combined company changed its name to American Century, and initially maintained the brand names of their funds. For example, The Twentieth Century Ultra fund became the American Century-Twentieth Century Ultra. With the 21st century upon us, however, and no sign of American dominance of the financial world abating, the company has dropped the sub-brands, instead attaching only the "American Century" brand name to all of its funds. American Century had about $75 billion in assets under management in its nearly 70 funds at the end of 1998.
James E. Stowers Jr. founded Twentieth Century Mutual Funds in 1958 as a manager of aggressive-growth stock funds. The firm made a huge splash in the early 1990s, with successful bets on high tech and biotech companies. The firm's flagship Ultra fund posted an amazing 86.5 percent return in 1991. However, in recent years, the former Twentieth Century funds have lagged behind the market, and the funds have begun shifting their investments away from risky technology companies. Several prominent funds including Ultra, came back strongly in 1998, in part because of shakeups in management and analysts. In contrast to Twentieth Century's historic aggressiveness, the Benham Group of funds is a group of more conservative fixed-income funds.
The Morgan connection
In July 1997, American Century announced a partnership with famed bank J.P. Morgan. Morgan bought a 45 percent stake in the firm for about $900 million. Although highbrow Morgan has long been the leader in investment management services for the wealthy, it has until recently not made a big play for increasingly lucrative mutual fund (read: smaller investor) business. Its investment in American Century was a major move in that direction. The firms have first worked on building a strong defined contribution (retirement plan) business. Other initiatives include the cross-selling of each other's investment products and American Century's use of Morgan's equity research.
American Century Investments, Inc. lists its job openings on its web site, www.americancentury.com. Applicants can e-mail your resume to them at email@example.com. When inquiring after a specific position, include the reference job number on all correspondence.
Depending on the office, the people and culture of American Century Investments varies. For example, in American Century's Kansas City headquarters, says one insider "the people here are Midwestern - friendly and reasonably laid back." Another longtime employee agrees: "The culture is fairly average Midwestern. People are generally friendly, relatively hardworking and try their best to work collaboratively."
The average age at American Century is "32 - maybe younger." "Rapid promotion" is common at American Century, and is "totally merit-based, no politics," insiders tell us. Says one insider, who reports moving up rather quickly, "while I don't think I'm necessarily the norm, development and advancement opportunities are available here. But you have to work for them."
Good opportunities for minorities and women
The company's treatment of minorities is "positive." One contact notes that he has "never heard of a single incident" in which an employee was "overlooked" or "made uncomfortable." The company "actively" promotes women to management positions, acknowledging that they have "special needs" and provides for them. For example, American Century implemented a "Healthy Deliveries prenatal program and areas/breaks for breast feeding." However, one insider tells us that "It's still a boys game - although a fairly open-minded one - at the top."
Good pay, decent hours
Our contacts tell us that the firm's pay is "generous." "American Century is probably one of the top-paying firms in Kansas City," reports one insider. However, "Kansas City isn't the most exciting place in the world - you might choose one of the other offices instead." In terms of dress, "technically" only Fridays are casual but, "there are no clothing police around" - "the only hard and fast rule is no blue jeans." However, dress depends on one's department; one contact reports that the "company overall does have a fairly conservative dress code." The hours at American Century for most employees at headquarters are 8 to 5 with some flexibility - "late in/late out, work at home, flex time."
401(k) retirement plans;Mutual funds
Fidelity;T. Rowe Price;Vanguard Group
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