When John Toomey joined HarbourVest Partners as an analyst in 1997, returning to Boston after working at a New York investment bank, he could not have foreseen the growth that would come for the firm — or that its name would go up on one of Boston’s tallest skyscrapers.
HarbourVest had just been spun off from insurer John Hancock, and employed about 40 people at the time. Today, Toomey runs the firm as its cochief executive with Peter Wilson in London, together overseeing a staff of 1,200 people, including 900 in Boston. The firm manages $109 billion in assets from institutional clients, largely placed with venture capital or private equity managers or their portfolio companies.
But HarbourVest is not quite a household name around town. So Toomey jumped at the opportunity to find a new home that would include signage rights. That search led Toomey to One Lincoln, an office tower on the edge of the Financial District and Chinatown where State Street was moving out to its own new headquarters across downtown at One Congress.
The State Street name atop One Lincoln came down. And, earlier this month, HarbourVest’s name went up. (HarbourVest won’t actually move there until 2025, after interior renovations are done.) Employees watched the sign go up from their current perch at One Financial, a few blocks away.
“As we continued to grow the firm, I frankly saw an opportunity to share our story and our brand with more people in the Boston community,” Toomey said. “[And] we have clients from all over the world who visit. They fly into Logan. We thought it would be great for them to see our brand.”
HarbourVest’s Boston headcount has more than doubled in the past five years. Toomey expects the hiring will slow a bit, but he still plans to add 100 to 200 jobs a year worldwide. At 256,000 square feet, the new office at One Lincoln will be roughly double the size of HarbourVest’s current home. To some extent, this success reflects the growth of the private equity markets. But Toomey said his firm’s strong investment returns have also drawn many customers.
Toomey, a Stoneham native, remains proud HarbourVest became a major player in the PE world while keeping its Boston roots.
“I’ve taken great pride that we are not [based] in New York,” he added. “There’s something a little bit different about the culture and the grit of the people of this city.”
Hao hopes to grow state’s economy, for everyone
Does economic competitiveness conflict with economic equity?
WBUR radio host Tiziana Dearing posed the intriguing question to Yvonne Hao, Governor Maura Healey’s economic development secretary, at a forum hosted by Associated Industries of Massachusetts last Thursday.
“How do you avoid the tension between those two things?” Dearing said.
Dearing had raised the question after Nicole Obi, president of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, pointed out that the state’s economic success is not shared by all. Obi said that for Black and Latino residents of Massachusetts, the unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent, four times the overall rate of 2.5 percent. Obi cited relatively high interest rates and inadequate access to affordable housing and good public transit as contributing factors. (Other panelists included PNC Financial chief economist Gus Faucher and Babson College’s Donna Levin.)
Hao said the Healey administration sees no conflict between promoting equity and competing with other states for jobs.
“In our state, they go hand in hand,” Hao responded. “We want to be competitive where all companies want to start here, stay here and expand here . . . We need Boston and Cambridge to be successful [but] we cannot be successful as a state if only Boston and Cambridge are successful.”
Chamber achieves gender parity, ahead of schedule
In 2021, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s board set some ambitious diversity goals: a 50-50 makeup of men and women by the end of 2025, and 37 percent of seats going to people of color.
Turns out, the chamber pulled off the first of those goals two years early. Last Thursday, the board ushered in four new members: Meditech chief executive Michelle O’Connor, John Hancock chief marketing officer Lindsay Hanson, Suffolk Construction chief marketing officer Katy O’Neil, and Burns & Levinson managing partner Paul Mastrocola. With the three new women joining, the board achieved gender parity: 63 men and 63 women.
In 2017, when the board started setting diversity goals for itself, under then-chair Paul Ayoub, women held 23 percent of seats. Then the chamber ramped things up in 2021, under Ayoub’s successor, Micho Spring; the new gender goal was reached under current chair Ron O’Hanley. Chamber chief executive Jim Rooney said the board is closer to reaching its racial diversity goal, with 30 percent of seats held by people of color. The chamber, Rooney said, “recognizes the changing demographics of the city and the business community, and the importance of different voices being at the table.”
Taking the long view at John Hancock
John Hancock president Brooks Tingle wants you to live longer — and healthier.
With those words, Tingle kicked off his company’s first longevity conference, an event last week that drew about 200 insurance agents, Hancock employees, and business partners to the InterContinental hotel in Boston. Life insurance companies benefit if people they insure live long, healthy lives. But Tingle said focusing on longevity is not just a matter of self-interest. He said it’s a matter of principle.
Tingle’s words didn’t go unnoticed by Mayor Michelle Wu, one of the first speakers. “The fact that we are here at a major conference [on longevity] that one of our local anchor employers is convening is a huge deal,” said Wu, joined onstage by the executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, Bisola Ojikutu. “For a while, [Boston] was defined by haves and have nots . . . and I think we’ve really turned the corner on being an era of envisioning a city that truly works for everyone.”
Roy Gori, chief executive of Hancock parent Manulife Financial, noted the company’s Vitality program, which rewards customers for healthy behavior, got its start at John Hancock in Boston. He hopes the idea of hosting longevity conferences can take off in a similar way.
“We expect it will be something we can scale dramatically,” Gori said. “We don’t think anyone is owning this space and convening this kind of forum.”
Brandeis comes back to school with new message
It’s back-to-school time at Brandeis University. This season is a little different, though, because of a massive branding campaign timed with the school’s 75th anniversary. Digital ads will continue running until early next month, with print ads appearing through December.
President Ron Liebowitz said he has hoped to run a campaign like this for several years, ever since focus groups showed some brand confusion about the university, a secular school founded in 1948 in part to offer opportunities for young Jews boxed out of other colleges. People on the West Coast, Liebowitz recalled, thought Brandeis required students to study Hebrew while some on the East Coast thought Brandeis abandoned its Jewish roots. Neither opinion was quite right.
“I used to joke, plant me in Chicago,” Liebowitz said, “and I’ll do some recruiting.”
Instead, Brandeis hired DeVito/Verdi, a New York agency known for edgy campaigns (including ones for Suffolk University and Legal Sea Foods), for the job. It helped that cofounder Ellis Verdi is an alum.
The edginess got people talking, although not all feedback has been positive: One print ad describing the school as “anything but orthodox” stirred up anger amid some in the Orthodox Judaism community.
The ads all tie into a theme that Brandeis and its students are committed to changing the world for the better, with slogans like “Take a seat and learn how to stand up for others” and “Students come here knowing everything and leave here questioning everything.”