Jonathan Bell Lovelace believed that fundamental research is essential to achieving superior long-term investment results. The small company he founded in 1931 has grown into one of the world’s most respected financial institutions.
Life at Capital Group
Val Saber joined Capital Group in 1979 as an accountant. Based in Irvine, Val is now a Business Analyst for the broader Service organization. Across the floor in the same building sits Shina McAlister, who started recently as a Retirement Plan Services Representative. So, what would one of Capital’s most tenured associates—and one of our newest—have to say to one another about Capital, career development, and our core values? It turns out, quite a lot!
Val, you joined Capital more than 37 years ago. What did the organization look like then?
Val: When I started, Capital was located in downtown Los Angeles. It was still the days when you could smoke in the office! Everything was manual. My job involved reconciling the money that came into the American Funds and then got allocated to investors’ accounts. We received cash deposits and receipts from the bank, and then recorded it all on a sheet of paper and added it up to make sure it balanced.
Was this your first job?
Val: No, I had several jobs before Capital. I chose an accounting job because I loved numbers, but I still had to teach myself how to use a 10-key machine!
Shina, you joined less than a year ago. What were your first impressions of Capital?
Shina: When I first arrived on the Irvine campus, I thought: This is amazing. It’s so relaxing and beautiful. The welcome I received from others was incredible. And all the resources! People were ready to help.
What did you do before Capital?
Shina: I was processing prescriptions at a mail order pharmacy, which meant I was on the phone a lot. So, I wasn’t too sure when I learned of this job that I wanted to go down the customer service road again. But working here is totally different from a call center! You don’t get angry or aggressive people on the phone. And the expectations are so different. It’s about service at Capital, not hitting numbers. When I learned more about the role, I thought: I can do this.
Val: There was no training when I joined. It was simply “Here’s what you’re going to do” and then others in the department would help you out. I did have to learn the names and numbers of the funds on the first day, but we only had 26 funds, so it was a bit easier then. I think it’s great that the training is so thorough these days.
Val, one of the things associates may think when they hear “37-year-career” is: How do you keep it interesting? How do you keep learning?
Val: It’s a combination of the evolving business and changing technology that keeps things fresh. As a Business Analyst supporting Risk Management and Control, there’s a new issue or challenge to address almost every day because of how complex our business has become.
So, I keep learning. And I like to challenge myself to solve problems in new ways.
Shina, your career here is just beginning. How are you feeling as you start to approach your one-year anniversary?
Shina: I definitely feel more confident. When you take those calls at the beginning, it feels like the unknown. I’ve realized that there’s always something new to learn—and that I just need to be open and willing to learn and take on more tasks.
Let’s shift to our core values. When you joined, Val, they hadn’t even been written down yet.
Val: That’s true, but they were definitely in evidence.
It was clear from all levels of management—and from your peers—that you always put the client first, told the truth and worked to the highest level of integrity. There were events and challenges throughout the years that proved this out. And even as management changed, the values held.
Shina, how have you learned about our core values?
Shina: During training, we spent a whole week learning about Capital, including our core values. We watched videos, got handouts and had lots of good conversation. A lot of companies sell themselves and their values while you’re interviewing. But once you start doing the job and interacting with customers and co-workers, that’s when you really see what the place is made of. At Capital, the recruiting message and the reality go hand in hand.
What have you shared with your friends and family about working at Capital?
Shina: I tell them it’s part of the culture to ask questions. And that you can ask any manager when you need some help, not just the one you report to!
Val: I share that I love my job because of the variety and professionalism at Capital. Associates and management are interesting and great to work with.
Val, any great advice you’ve received over the course of your career?
Val: I recall people saying years ago, “Do what you love!” I love numbers and figured out that was my path as a systems-oriented, let-me-help-you-find-the-problem person. That’s why I’m a business analyst.
I like to tell the story about when I became a manager due to my business knowledge. It involved managing people, not just projects, and that just wasn’t my strength. I had a new manager who’d just joined my department and called me into his office and said, “You’re not happy.” He mentioned an opening in the Project Office that was just starting up, and he suggested I try it out. And it was a great fit!
He was really paying attention!
Val: Yeah. And the move wasn’t treated as a huge mistake. It was a situation of “Well, that didn’t work. Let’s try something else.”
Shina, what advice has been most helpful to you so far?
Shina: I think the biggest thing is: Don’t be afraid to ask. There’s the saying “Closed mouths don’t get fed”… You don’t want to struggle quietly with something when someone could’ve helped you out with it.
Val: That can be hard to do in a meeting, especially when you’re on the phone. It was hard for me early on at Capital to speak up, but now I just jump in. “What was that last point? Could you say that again, please?”
If you could ask Capital founder Jonathan Bell Lovelace one question, what would it be?
Shina: We talked about this in training a bit, but I’d like to ask him in person: Tell me the story. What motivated you to start the business?
Val: I’ve wondered that, too. He obviously had so much integrity. I’d ask about that. Were these values he already had from his family? Or did he witness something in life that put him on that path? They’ve really driven the entire organization.