A few weeks ago, the Vanguard Group Inc.'s chief executive, William McNabb, received an e-mail from one of his sales representatives that a longtime client wanted to have lunch with him.
At the end of the e-mail was a simple request: "Please do not suit up."
"The client actually asked that I not wear a suit," McNabb said. "They said it made them feel uncomfortable."
Despite being more than 100 miles away from the formalities of Wall Street, Malvern, Pennsylvania-based Vanguard always has required its employees worldwide to dress in business attire: a jacket and tie for men and professional dress for women.
Until now, that is.
On Nov. 23, McNabb announced on his blog that Vanguard would go "business appropriate," meaning that all of its 12,500 employees across the world no longer have to "suit up" unless they are meeting with clients. The blog post received more than 20,000 hits.
"I had wanted the blog to outpace the number of hits of the cafeteria menu," said John Woerth, a spokesman. The menu gets between 100 and 200 hits each day.
Last week at Vanguard's headquarters, McNabb himself was wearing a button-down shirt and pants.
"My predecessor, Jack Brennan, felt that business attire was more egalitarian," he said. "If you walked into a room, you couldn't tell who the boss was."
But after much deliberation—"I won't even tell you how long it took to make this decision," McNabb said—the firm has embraced the new dress code.
"It just felt it was time," he said.