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Money Management

BlackRock to cut 500 jobs amid corporate restructuring and market uncertainty

BlackRock (BLK) announced Thursday layoffs of about 500 employees, or 3% of its workforce, as part of company-wide restructuring.

The planned staff cuts are firmwide, across all departments and locations, and will happen over the next few weeks, changing "the size and shape of our workforce," said Robert Kapito, co-founder and president, in an internal memo to BlackRock employees obtained by Pensions & Investments.

BlackRock is reacting to an environment that is "changing quickly. Market uncertainty is growing, investor preferences are evolving and the ecosystem in which we operate is becoming increasingly complex," Mr. Kapito wrote.

BlackRock's headcount was 14,000 as of Sept. 30, according to the firm's most recent 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The firm's global workforce will be 4% higher than it was at the beginning of 2018, Mr. Kapito said in the memo.

BlackRock spokeswoman Melissa Garville declined to specify which areas of the firm will have the largest personnel cuts.

In the memo, Mr. Kapito said BlackRock's restructuring will focus future capacity building in four key areas:

  • Meeting client investment demand in areas including illiquid alternatives, ETFs, factor-based strategies and retirement plans.
  • Expanding the firm's technology prowess.
  • Shifting to a portfolio construction approach with clients from a product selection focus.
  • Increasing distribution capability in high-growth markets worldwide.

In conjunction with BlackRock's future focus on new markets for investment distribution, Mark Wiedman was named head of international and corporate strategy of BlackRock on Wednesday.

In addition to the firmwide restructuring, BlackRock's board of directors continued to promote potential successors to Mr. Fink to roles with significantly increased responsibility.

In this new position, for example, Mr. Wiedman, a senior managing director and one of six senior executives singled out by the board as chairman/CEO material, will oversee all of BlackRock's international operations, including marketing, and will be responsible for "developing and driving our corporate strategy globally," said Laurence D. Fink, BlackRock's chairman and CEO, in a separate internal memo obtained by P&I.

Mr. Wiedman will be BlackRock's first executive with responsibility for all non-U.S. activities. Previously, individual region heads did not report to a single executive.

Mr. Wiedman will report to Mr. Fink, who said "Mark will bring even more executive focus and attention to high-growth markets in EMEA and APAC," in the memo.

Mr. Wiedman was head of BlackRock's global iShares and index businesses and was

replaced by Salim Ramji, senior managing director and head of BlackRock's U.S. wealth advisory business.

Martin Small, managing director and head of U.S. and Canada iShares, replaced Mr. Ramji in his former role.

Edward Sweeney, a BlackRock spokesman, said Mr. Ramji will determine later whether to directly replace Mr. Small with another head of the firm's North American iShares business.

The other five candidates for the CEO/chairman's position are Robert Goldstein, senior managing director, chief operating officer and global head of BlackRock Solutions; Mr. Kapito; Richard Kushel, senior managing director and global head of fixed income and global head of multiasset strategies; Mark McCombe, senior managing director and head of the Americas region; and Mark D. Wiseman, senior managing director and global head of active equities and chairman of BlackRock Alternative Investors.

BlackRock managed $6.3 trillion as of Sept. 30.