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Salomon site suits new approach

Published Oct. 10, 2005

Behind the stone, steel and glass of its new corporate building in northeast Tampa, Salomon Brothers Inc. has built a boardwalk that meanders lazily through the woods.

The wooden trail, raised up off the forest floor, splits in two to go around a thick oak tree and ends at a gazebo near an old Cypress stand.

It's not the sort of thing you'd expect from a staid, starched-white shirt Wall Street brokerage house. But one year ago Wednesday, Salomon announced it was moving its backroom operations to Tampa and at least part of the reason was to get away from its past.

The company, which will employ almost 600 at its Tampa office, is putting a new structure in place that will virtually eliminate the corporate ladder. Instead of managers, there will be coaches. Instead of departments there will be teams.

A small but growing number of Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States have been using the team approach to increase productivity, solve problems and reduce costs.

But Marc Sternfeld, managing director for domestic operations, said Salomon is the first company in the securities business to use it and the company had to leave New York City to give it a go.

"People come to New York and want to be able to climb the corporate ladder," Sternfeld said. "We felt this was too much of a risk to try in New York."

The company's backroom operation division processes the trades and transactions from its office throughout the world. All those operations will be performed at its new data processing facility in Hidden River Corporate Park, which is scheduled to open in June.

Under the old corporate structure, the division's accountants belonged to one department, the data entry personnel in another and the cashiers in yet another.

It was like an automobile assembly line. One department put on the hubcaps, the other attached the brakes.

Now, Salomon will organize its employees into teams and each will be responsible for a specific product. One team will process the trades from its government securities group, another will process the work from its foreign exchange group.

Within each team will be the accountants, data entry personnel and cashiers who once belonged to separate departments. It's as if a team were now producing the entire car instead of just installing transmissions.

All members of the team will be trained to do each other's work. If one is out sick, the operations won't stop.

"Everyone on the team has the same goal," Sternfeld said. "It's a radically different approach."

There will be no labyrinthine corporate hierarchy. No assistant supervisors, supervisors, assistant vice presidents and vice presidents all reporting up a notch to another marginally more powerful boss.

It will be just a team and a coach, and the coach will report to Sternfeld or to someone just below him.

Coaches will not be rewarded by how many people work for them. They and their team members will get bonuses for their skills and how well their team meets its goals.

"You can't just go into your existing building and say on Monday morning that everything's changed," Sternfeld said. "You almost need the disorientation of moving to create a new culture."