Patricia Dunn, who rose from the post of executive assistant to lead one of the world's largest money management firms, was remembered last week as a smart visionary with a knack for leadership and sales.
Ms. Dunn, former chairwoman and CEO of Barclays Global Investors and director and chairwoman of Hewlett-Packard Co., died on Dec. 4 of ovarian cancer. She was 58.
“She is simply the best investment management salesperson I've ever met,” said Donald Luskin, former vice chairman at BGI and now chief investment officer at Trend Macrolytics LLC in Menlo Park, Calif. “I've never seen anyone with a greater talent to earn and fulfill the confidence of clients in explaining difficult concepts and sharing revolutionary ideas.”
“Her defining characteristics were ethics and character, patience and persistence,” said Robert Arnott, chairman of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Research Affiliates LLC. “She was an amazing leader ... she was never pushing for career advancement; she was invited into it.”
Mr. Arnott called Ms. Dunn's career trajectory, “just astounding.”
Ms. Dunn started at Wells Fargo & Co. as an executive assistant in 1975. As the firm changed from Wells Fargo Investment Advisors to Wells Fargo Nikko Investment Advisers, Ms. Dunn rose through the ranks and, in 1998, was named chairwoman and CEO at what had become BGI — then the nation's second-largest money manager. She resigned from the post in 2002, when she took the part-time role of non-executive vice chairwoman while undergoing treatment for cancer. She left that position in October 2006.
At year-end 2006, BGI had $1.8 trillion under management; BlackRock Inc. acquired BGI in 2009.
Matthew Scanlan, former head of business development and institutional indexing at BGI, said Ms. Dunn pushed hard on developing the iShares exchange-traded funds business when many thought BGI should remain focused on indexed management.
“She was a real visionary,” said Mr. Scanlan, who worked with Ms. Dunn from 1996 to 2002. He is now the CEO of New York-based Renaissance Institutional Management LLC. “She saw the future promise of iShares and ETFs, and knew it would be revolutionary and a new investment tool.”
Mr. Scanlan said Ms. Dunn “single-handedly” pushed the idea of iShares through the executive committee and parent company Barclays PLC.
“She drove BGI to be the single most innovative (money manager) in the last 20 years,” Mr. Scanlan said.
Blake Grossman, who started at Wells Fargo in 1985 and became co-CEO in 2002, said in an e-mail response to a request for comment that “it's quite breathtaking” how many innovations in investing Ms. Dunn backed during her leadership, including indexing, “quant active,” ETFs and target-date funds. He said her support of scientifically based enhanced and active strategies to extend indexing was central to BGI's success in the early 1990s.
“She put her career and reputation on the line in the late 1990s to get funding for the development of the iShares ETF business, which required a very significant bet by BGI and Barclays at the time,” Mr. Grossman wrote. “Pattie always had a strong vision of where the industry should be heading, and was indefatigable in pursuing it.”