Dalio Defends Bridgewater's 'Culture'

Mar 4 2011 | 10:13am ET

Stung by criticism of his firm's secrecy and some of its stranger practices, Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio moved to dispel at least the former impression with a television appearance.

"I've been getting too much media attention," the head of the world's largest hedge fund deadpanned on CNBC (see video).

Appearing live from Los Angeles, Dalio said "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."

The reports include a recent article in AR magazine alleging that Westport, Conn.-based Bridgewater is home to a "brutal" and "bizarre culture of criticism," and another that the firm is now requiring applicants to submit dental records. At the heart of all the chatter about Bridgewater, of course, is the firm's famed 295 principles, issued to each employee in the form of an 83-page handbook, and including a rule against gossip, on penalty of termination.

"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," Dalio said. "So that's what our culture is."

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

Dalio admitted, "it's not for everyone."

"In order to make money in the market, you have to be an independent thinker," he said. "And I think also creative; you have to be willing to make mistakes. And so the process is that anybody in the company, if anything doesn't make sense to then, that they can bring up what doesn't make sense to them in a non-hierarchical way and look at whether it's true or not and what we should do about it."

And while it had the reclusive Dalio on its airwaves, CNBC would have been remiss not to ask him for his take on world markets.

"I think it's inevitable that the dollar's role as a world currency diminish from the dominant world currency to one of a few, and it will happen over a gradual time," he said. But he also said that U.S. stocks "are still comparatively cheap."


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