At the 2020 Morningstar Conference, Larry Fink, Chairman of BlackRock, Inc., talked with Morningstar’s Hayward Kelly.
Like most companies, the pandemic has had quite an impact on BlackRock. Although 30% of its executives are back in their main offices in New York, London, and San Francisco, they will never be back in the office 100%. Key issues for surveyed employees are safety and finding quality child-care.
BlackRock has felt the challenges of trying to retain their corporate culture while working remotely. Fink believes culture is what binds an organization. He further mentioned they don’t have the water cooler conversations that often contribute to developing new ideas. The firm has 400 young employees who were hired during the advent of the COVID-19 crisis that have never been in the office. While there are negatives, Fink mentioned one positive aspect of COVID is less congestion in the cities and less pollution
Fink discussed the importance the firm now attaches to the issue of climate change. He believes climate risk is investment risk. Last year he wrote a letter to CEOs of their portfolio companies telling them that BlackRock will vote against management teams that do not make more progress on sustainability. Fink feels it is the firm’s responsibility to educate and persuade portfolio companies that climate risk is investment risk. He noted that companies are responding to their shareholders to make progress on climate change. According to Fink, BlackRock has more sustainable investment products than any other asset management firm in the world.
Fink believes diversity in the workplace is important and wants more awareness of the issue of racial equity. He is pushing to get more women and African Americans on faster career paths and recognizes the firm needs to do much more in this regard. He mentioned 30% of the current BlackRock board are women.
BlackRock has made a commitment to developing relationships with advisors. They strive to listen better to advisors and are working to provide them with the necessary tools to help them grow their businesses and look good for their clients.