Real-time is money at Bloomberg LP, the giant financial-news firm. Lean hog futures, interest rates, municipal bond prices—if it can be quantified and slipped into an electron stream, Bloomberg serves it up, usually via its signature terminals, to a worldwide audience of executives, traders, and regulators. "From our first day of business," writes founder Michael Bloomberg in his autobiography (he has had no operational role in the company since he first ran for New York mayor in 2001), "Bloomberg was making news, with numbers."
But while the latest budget deficit or foreclosure figures may be sobering, the Bloomberg environment is anything but. The goal was, "Let's bring 'em in and freak 'em out," says CEO Lex Fenwick. "You're supposed to come out of the elevator and be greeted by noise and bustle. It's New York! It's a media organization!" A media organization with 8,000 employees in 55 countries—and plans to add 1,000 this year alone.
The seven-story Cesar Pelli building on the Upper East Side, completed in 2005, was designed by STUDIOS Architecture, whose clients include Apple Computers, XM Satellite Radio, and Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp. It's an architectural expression of a 24-7 global market, one in which money flies around the world at warp speed, available to anyone smart and fast enough to snatch it from the air. Founded by four Wall Streeters in 1981, Bloomberg has baked the frenzy of the market into the very design of the company's offices. In the reception area, giant LED screens flash market conditions from around the globe. In the customer-service department, a big overhead screen tracks the length of the queue and the average response time—under Fenwick's watchful eye. Conference rooms named for world capitals display the number of terminals sold in the city that month (there are more than 230,000 users worldwide, each paying about $1,425 monthly).
"We bring transparency to markets," says Fenwick. "It's the biggest thing we stand for. We allow everybody to have an equal chance, with the same information, at the same time." The glass-walled conference rooms, the fish tanks, the wide-open TV studios—all manifest that core principle. "We try our damnedest to have as little structure as we can," echoes cofounder Tom Secunda. "No titles on our business cards, no mahogany. We come from a trading environment where if you make money for the firm, it doesn't matter how long you've been with us." That translates into a seating plan as dense as a trading floor's, with each employee presiding over 6 linear feet of space—twice as packed as most offices. Some find that less than ideal ("If you need to concentrate, it's a tough environment," says one employee), but it's true for the chairman, the CEO, and the humblest statistical drone. Maybe one day even the business world will be flat.
A version of this article appeared in the September 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.