rising interest: corporate bonds

Cutthroat. Merciless. Fierce. corporate_bond1

Cold-hearted. Brutal. Harsh.

Corporate executives operating with less ruth than an oceanic whitetip shark.

These descriptions may well still be the norm for the Fortune 500s and Russell 2000s out there, yet more and more corporations are demonstrating a rising interest in the opposite approach—offering generous and extended paid parental leave (Netflix), providing free college education (Starbucks), building collegial campuses filled with free gourmet cafeterias, play areas and creative fun (Google), and countless etceteras. These environments yield dedication, gratitude and, to be sure, a willingness to work that much harder.

Generous to a fault in the eyes of their shareholders? Far from it. These are strategic decisions carefully vetted and taken by enlightened companies that realize the value of loyalty that goes far beyond their biweekly employee ADP salary deposits. Humans have a demonstrated and deep-seated need for fellowship, camaraderie, working toward common goals and, yes, fun. Must the bottom line be as divorced from that word as a previously married couple?

Preconceptions are as stale as month-old bread. CEOs may well feel the need to drain their employees dry, with the same acidic approach as Liquid-Plumr. After all, their stock options and 400-to-one salary differences depend on quarterly profit reports that rise with the sun’s regularity. Yet despite kaleidoscopic, well-nigh unlimited differences, people are (not surprisingly) similar when it comes to the basics of respect, goodwill, loyalty and willingness to work for their daily bread.

To be sure, business success more often than not requires discipline, long hours, utter devotion and focus; within this context, the human bonds that develop amid the corporate environment can be palpable. These are people who work together over extended periods of time. Personal friendships grow. After-hours meals take place. Vacations are booked. Even marriages result. The work itself is often fascinating, but a misplaced and relentless focus on the last possible dime can not only shave pennies from the bottom line but can make employees literally hate walking into the office, thus obscuring what could otherwise make for stimulating and fulfilling careers.

Demonstrably, corporate bonds and shareholder returns make for a profitable merger.