The pride and responsibility employees at BlackRock Inc. feel about working at the world's largest money manager comes across in conversations, surveys and activities.
The employee responses to Pensions & Investments' survey for the Best Places to Work in Money Management are anonymous, but it seems they were reading each other's and their managers' minds.
In response to a request to cite the best things about working at BlackRock, employees said things like: “the ability to make a difference in people's retirement outcomes — working for a firm with a strong mission — access to resources and some of the brightest minds in the industry.”
Another respondent said: “the ability to be involved in some of the firm and industry's most important new developments and initiatives.”
Managers said similar things.
Mark McCombe, New York-based senior managing director, global head of BlackRock's institutional client business and chairman of BlackRock Alternative Investors, spoke at length about how well his colleagues understand the importance of clients and meeting their needs.
“There is a real feeling that everything we do starts and ends with the client,” Mr. McCombe said. “It is pervasive.”
Chairman and CEO Laurence D. Fink, speaking in June at P&I's Global Future of Retirement Conference, put it this way: “Everything we do is being client centric and being a fiduciary.”
And to get there, Mr. Fink said, “10-15-20% of my time is spent on the culture of the firm.”
He also stressed that the firm's mission needs to be understood by “every employee at the firm ... every division, including HR and ops and admin.”
To that end, BlackRock prides itself on using technology and face-to-face internal meetings “to make the firm seem small,” and enable the culture to spread internally, he said.
Jeff Smith, a senior managing director and the global head of human resources, described the firm as having an “incredibly communicative culture,” that flows from Mr. Fink on down.
To achieve that communication, BlackRock holds quarterly companywide meetings hosted by Mr. Fink and also has several events throughout the year for smaller groups from across the organization to collaborate.
One employee responding to the survey praised those efforts, writing: “Opportunities for involvement are not restricted based on rank or experience, but rather employees are encouraged to participate in projects and initiatives that suit their interests.”
The firm has held an innovation summit in each of the past two years, bringing together about 50 midlevel managers from around the world, first in virtual teams for several months to tackle issues put before them by the firm's global executive committee. The group then comes together to present to the committee.
Technology also helps spread the culture and enable the nearly 13,000 employees in 35 countries to collaborate, communicate and enable work-life flexibility.
After last year's innovation summit recommended the move, BlackRock found ways to use Aladdin — its operating system for money management — as a tool for measuring different human resources metrics on recruiting and career development.
Mr. McCombe said Aladdin offers everyone at the firm “a common language,” and “gives a sense of collective participation. It makes it feel like (BlackRock) is small.”