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Top Midsize Place to Work | Commonwealth Financial Network

Brain trust

This brokerage firm creates opportunities for workers to learn from one another

Commonwealth Financial uses a buddy system to ease new employees into the company. (Michelle McDonald / Globe Staff Photo) Commonwealth Financial uses a buddy system to ease new employees into the company.
By Maggie Jackson
Globe correspondent / November 9, 2008
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Ten years ago, when Commonwealth Financial Network chief executive Joe Deitch was thinking about buying a ski house at Sunday River in Maine, he couldn't justify the expense because his family could only use the home about five weeks a year. So he came up with the idea to share it, allowing staff who had worked for the company for three years to use the place at no charge. And the "Sunday River Club" was born.

It's the mark of a company with a unique focus on its people and its culture. As staff was growing, nearly doubling in five years, it became harder for employees to get to know one another. So in 2005, a buddy system was born.

Now, new hires are matched with experienced staff as part of a weeklong orientation. The veterans dispense advice, introduce the newcomers around, and gain new contacts themselves within Commonwealth, the highest-ranking midsize company on the Top Places to Work list.

Professional development is a top priority at Commonwealth, a $492 million middleman dealer-broker that buys and sells investments for financial advisers. The firm offers its employees dozens of courses, from apple or wine tastings to leadership development.

"I'm a very interpersonal person, so it was important for me to get hooked up with a company where it wasn't just long hours and number crunching," said Brittany Conant, a compliance associate. "I really wanted to find a place where I would be encouraged to grow."

Meanwhile, the Sunday River Club has more than 200 members, and includes properties in Florida, Cape Cod, and the Dominican Republic. The homes have hosted honeymoons, family reunions, and much-needed getaways.

Jenn Abelson of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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