Boom fuels hiring drive Business is great, so T. Rowe Price needs 100 more workers

March 04, 1996|By Bill Atkinson | Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

Wall Street's boom has been Michael Goff's bane.

Ever since the stock market started surging, Mr. Goff, chief technology officer with T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., and his staff have been swamped with work.

Phone calls alone have sent his 260-member systems and technology staff scrambling to keep up. More than 480,000 phone calls poured into the Baltimore-based mutual fund company's offices in January alone, more than double its usual monthly volume.

"There is a crunch," Mr. Goff said. "January is always a strong month, but it did not abate in February. We had to quickly respond and put up more workstations for customer service representatives."

That's why the 36-year-old Mr. Goff wants to hire 100 people in short order, who understand computers and engineering to keep up with the company's booming business.

This Wednesday, T. Rowe Price will hold a recruitment open house at the Sheraton Baltimore North in Towson.

"Time is of the essence," Mr. Goff said. "We have a 1996 technology plan that is very aggressive. We have a lot of things we want to do strategically. We are restructuring everything."

As billions of dollars pour into the stock market from people who are saving for their retirement, mutual fund companies and brokerage firms are juggling bigger portfolios and bringing in droves of new customers.

That has stretched Mr. Goff's staff thin.

"We've got some guys working 80 hours a week," he said.

T. Rowe's technology department plays a crucial role in how the firm performs. It makes sure brokers have the latest information on the stock market on their computers, it keeps customers' fund information accurate, and it sees that the phone system doesn't crash.

This is a hefty responsibility.

Take T. Rowe Price's 401(k) business, which the company is aggressively expanding. In 1991, it had 310,000 participants and $4.2 billion in assets under management. Today, it has 700,000 participants and more than $18 billion under management.

Neighboring Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc. doubled its technology staff last year, said Timothy Scheve, senior vice president and treasurer of the Baltimore-based brokerage firm.

"The only product we really deliver is information," he said. "The quicker and more efficient we deliver that information, the better we will be able to serve our clients."

Mr. Goff hopes to solve his dilemma by holding the open house for systems and tech nology experts. He expects anywhere from 50 to 500 people to show up.

Mr. Goff is looking for graphics design people, technical writers, computer technicians and systems engineers.

"It is a broad range of professionals we are looking for," he said. "The impetus for this is a strategic shift in 1996 and emphasis on technological leadership in the industry. We are becoming a bigger player, so we are elevating our game in that area."

In December, T. Rowe Price unveiled a plan for a major expansion in Baltimore County that will add as many as 700 jobs in 1997. Many of the new jobs will require technical experience.

The ambitious expansion is being fueled by a huge demand for retirement planning services, especially in the 401(k) area.

Mr. Goff said he expects to interview people ranging from those with no computer experience to those holding engineering degrees.

He said Price will conduct "character assessments" during the open house. "We don't have a test or anything," he said. "We talk to them about their life, about their desires, about what they want to do. We want people to be able to think outside the box."

Mr. Goff said he won't brush off college graduates with degrees in English, music or philosophy.

"I would take philosophy majors," he said. "In fact, I just hired a guy with a Ph.D. in philosophy."

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