Laurence D. Fink, who built BlackRock Inc. into the world's biggest asset manager, now is seeking to increase the firm's clout beyond Wall Street to the wider public.
Mr. Fink is pushing for reputational heft with investors, regulators and peers, as the adulation received by rival Pacific Investment Management Co. has eluded the firm he co-founded in 1988. He's started a campaign to make BlackRock's brand better known, and is asserting its views on pivotal issues including money-fund rules and the dangers of complex exchange-traded funds that are at odds with firms such as Fidelity Investments and Societe Generale SA. He's seeking to become a champion of corporate governance, urging 600 companies in which BlackRock has its biggest stakes to adopt shareholder-friendly practices.
“People always asked me what do I care about the most for our company, and that's an easy answer; it's respect,” Mr. Fink said in an interview in his office at BlackRock's New York headquarters. “Being the largest asset management company in the world isn't a stat that I actually care about. If we're the most respected asset management company in the world, that's a pretty lofty position.”
Gravitas is crucial for BlackRock as it tries to bolster its reputation as an active money manager, woo individual investors and increase its share of the U.S. mutual fund business, where it holds 2.2% of assets. Success probably would translate into higher fee income for the money manager.
Although Newport Beach, Calif.-based PIMCO has less than half of BlackRock's $3.51 trillion in assets, its founder and co-chief investment officer, Bill Gross, is one of the most widely followed bond investment managers and analysts of Federal Reserve policy. Mr. Gross, who was named the fixed-income manager of the decade by Morningstar Inc. in 2010, posts monthly investment outlooks online and his postings are followed by more than 62,000 users of the microblogging site Twitter.com.
Mohamed El-Erian, PIMCO's CEO, wrote a book “When Markets Collide” in 2008 that was a New York Times bestseller, and regularly writes commentaries for newspapers and websites on topics ranging from the global economy to education.
PIMCO, whose $252 billion Total Return Fund is the world's largest mutual fund, controls 5.5% of the mutual fund market, according to Strategic Insight, a research firm. Across the company, PIMCO attracted $60 billion of client deposits in 2011 while BlackRock had net withdrawals of $13.7 billion.
PIMCO's parent, Allianz SE, ranks No. 2 globally, with $2.2 trillion, including $1.36 trillion at the unit run by Mr. El-Erian and Mr. Gross.
BlackRock acquired Barclays Global Investors in December 2009 to add iShares exchange-traded funds to the actively run stock and bond funds it oversees, more than doubling its assets. More than half of the firm's assets were in iShares and other passive funds as of the end of last year.