Standard & Poor's Corp. has begun <

a management restructuring that will affect between 350 and 450 rating professionals nationwide.

Leo O'Neill, the agency's president, <

said the changes are an attempt to better reward and compensate the rating officials who have helped spur the firm's recent growth.

The comprehensive review of <

management structure is the agency's first since 1984, Mr. O'Neill said.

Essentially, the changes are titular <

and consolidate the functions of six or seven positions into four.

The titles, according to Mr. <

O'Neill and agency spokesman Glen Goldberg, include the existing positions of executive managing director and managing director.

Professionals who held the title of <

vice president and senior vice president will now be directors. Those who were rating officers and assistant vice presidents will now be associate directors.

"What we hope to accomplish <

through these changes is the creation of more of a coaching atmosphere from our upper-level management," said Mr. O'Neill. "We, like many companies, would rather assess the performance of our employees throughout the year as opposed to a yearend review."

He said the agency wants to let <

professionals know throughout the year what they are doing well and what needs improvement, rather than saying, "This is what you did right or wrong in the past."

Mr. O'Neill said this process began <

last year when Standard & Poor's retained Craig Schneier, an analyst at the international managing consulting firm Sibson & Co., to evaluate the structure of the agency.

Mr. Schneier, who had performed <

a similar function for the Municipal Bond Investors Assurance Corp., a leading bond insurer, made several recommendations about how to better evaluate and compensate employees.

"What we are doing is an attempt <

to bring the agency into the 21st century with a better way to motivate our professionals," said Mr. Goldberg.

Mr. O'Neill and Mr. Goldberg said <

the agency's relationship with the Newspaper Guild of New York will be unaffected by the changes. Most of the agency employees represented by the union are printing and production personnel.

Mr. O'Neill said the timing of the <

changes was crucial.

"Standard & Poor's has increased <

employment 15% this past year, and now is the best time for the changes," he said. "It is advantageous to be doing this when times are good, when our industry is expanding so dramatically, instead of scrambling during bad times."

Both executives also said the <

changes will help keep the best people doing what they do best.

"It doesn't make any sense having <

an expert on one kind of issue wasting a lot of time doing administrative duties," said Mr. O'Neill.

The agency's president said the <

changes will also facilitate the lateral movement of employees within the company, allowing professionals to become more proficient in several fields.

Mr. Goldberg said the changes <

should allow the rating agency to continue to attract dedicated and motivated professionals.

<

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