The 91 IT workers at Janney Montgomery Scott have delivered big in recent years. Their recent work includes a new dashboard for financial advisers, the complete replacement of the firm's data centers and the implementation of VoIP communication systems.

"To do so many things at one small firm is exciting," says Eric Seel, a business intelligence manager at the Philadelphia broker-dealer. Employees are expected to solve problems and be accountable for their projects. "It's a neat culture. It's not entirely entrepreneurial, but you're not completely on your own. [You have] the independence to make decisions and to air your ideas."

People want three things in their careers, says senior vice president and CIO Bob Thielmann: to work for a firm moving in a positive direction, to be empowered and to feel that their contributions are valued. "Those are things we make sure are part of the environment here," he says.