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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Larry Fink Hints At a New Paradigm

Reported by Katherine Robertson

Day two of the Morningstar Investment Conference kicked off with a live discussion between Morningstar head of research, Haywood Kelly and Larry Fink , chairman and CEO of BlackRock. During the session, Fink discussed changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, and the future of sustainability and diversity at BlackRock.

Laurence D. Fink
Chairman, CEO
Fink began the session by voicing his concerns about remote working. Specifically, his focus is on maintaining the culture of BlackRock, even though employees can’t physically be together.

"Cultures are not meant to be in a remote fashion," Fink says. "Culture is what binds and unifies as an organization."

Fink tells Kelly that despite the physical distance, BlackRock is operationally doing quite well. "The resiliency of our platform through Aladdin is fantastic," Fink says, referring to BlackRock's portfolio management software. "Through technology we’ve been operating really well, really efficiently."

Despite his concerns about company culture, Fink reveals that he doesn't believe BlackRock will ever be completely back in the office. "Sixty to seventy percent, maybe that's a rotation of people. It's going to be a new workforce, a new paradigm," he says, adding that he believes: "If all companies adopt [this work structure], we'll have less congestion in cities, less pollution, and we'll have a more robust workforce."

As of now, Fink reports that about thirty percent of BlackRock's leading executives are back in the office. Fink says that for himself, he will aim to be back in the office more consistently as of next week, as part of trying to "create a form of normalcy."

On the environment, Fink spoke to the firm's commitment to sustainability. In particular, he highlighted the firm's dedication to collecting data and analytics which support the idea that climate change poses a risk to investment.

"We believe the whole concept of climate change and sustainability is going to become a major component," Fink says. "We are committed as a firm to building data and analytics to understand and support that climate risk is an investment risk."

Fink discusses other cultural changes at BlackRock as well, specifically in regards to diversity. "BlackRock must be a mirror of the society where we work," he says. "We were moving towards that but my optimism is probably proven to be a little too optimistic about how fast we can change."

Fink tells Kelly that thirty percent of BlackRock's board is now women. Additionally, in the Q&A portion of the session, Fink maintains that the "most important thing that any board can have is a diversity of mind." He adds: "I spend a great deal of time aiming to make sure I have a diverse board."

However, Fink relents that BlackRock still has room to grow in terms of diversity. "We need to make sure that we're doing everything we can as a firm to raise awareness of racial equity, resetting expectations, embedding accountability," he says. "We need to do more. We need to do much more. I'm not telling you that we did something as well as we could've. We need to do much more as a firm." 

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