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Full-Contact Finance

for another reason: “We have a firm that looks like America, and [our success] makes the statement that if you have great people in a firm that looks like America, then you can be the best.” Because of its phenomenal growth and its emergence as a consistently high-quality performer in the investment community, EARNEST Partners has been named the 2004 BE Financial Company of the Year.

Born in Detroit and raised in Battle Creek, Michigan, Viera was introduced to hard work at an early age. He got a firsthand view of how working for a living could yield differing levels of success by watching his mother and aunts, who were school teachers, and his father and uncles, who all held down jobs or ran their own business ventures. Seeing his family toil in the real world made being the best extremely important to Viera, mostly because the euphoria of winning felt infinitely better than the disappointment of losing.

By the time Steve Sanders, president and co-CEO of MDL Capital Management (No. 5 on the BE ASSET MANAGERS list with $3.8 billion in assets under management), met Viera as a fellow summer intern at Aetna in Hartford, Connecticut, Viera had become a master competitor who was also focused and prepared.

“He was a very sharp guy who knew where he wanted to go,” says Sanders with admiration. “He navigated around the company from one summer to the next and was able to stake out exactly which internships would work best for him. He wasn’t afraid to move against the crowd. He looked for what would make him unique and distinctive.”

Not much has changed about Viera. In fact, he uses the same type of focus and competitive drive in the day-to-day management of his firm. Typically, an early-stage firm takes on the personality of its founder, and, at 45, Viera has emerged as a capable business manager and the key catalyst for EARNEST Partners’ growth and accomplishments.

In a relatively short time, Viera has instilled a business vision using three simple principles he feels lead to success: achieve high quality in everything that you do, complete all tasks with a sense of urgency, and do everything with good cheer so that clients will want to interact with you. He has also managed to incorporate his intense work ethic with a commitment to customer service and civility that has created a work environment where employees are cross trained in multiple disciplines and don’t mind staying late. The corporate culture provides the structure and support necessary for the firm’s financial philosophies to operate with maximum efficiency. Having the ability to execute such a dynamic business infrastructure makes Viera more than just a gifted stock picker.

“There are very few people who have the combination of skills that he has,” says EARNEST Partners Investment Manager Trey Greer. “[Some] people are absolutely brilliant and can pick stocks well. Other kinds of people can communicate ideas in a straightforward fashion. And then there are other people who