In the spotlight over racial and gender discrimination challenges, BlackRock is focused on "rooting out misconduct" as it simultaneously confronts a year of hardships wrought by the pandemic, its CEO said Wednesday in his annual letter to shareholders.
Laurence D. "Larry" Fink, who also serves as BlackRock's chairman, described himself as an optimist despite "immediate and pressing matters such as economic relief and vaccination rollout to address."
"More than 13 months after COVID-19 became a global health crisis, we are still confronting its impacts daily and have yet to return to normalcy," Mr. Fink said. "For billions of people around the world, the pandemic has brought on hardships — physically, emotionally, mentally and financially."
BlackRock itself is undergoing some internal turmoil after recent reports about racial and gender discrimination and harassment within the firm surfaced.
Mr. Fink addressed the issues noting that BlackRock's high-performance culture "requires diversity, empathy, equity, respect and inclusion. I know our culture is not perfect. It depends on the contribution of 16,500 individuals."
"In some cases, certain employees have not upheld BlackRock's standards," he said. "Rooting out misconduct — and ensuring an environment that doesn't allow it — is critical to building the culture we all aspire to and ensuring everyone can experience BlackRock at its best."
Mr. Fink said the company is "taking a number of actions internally to promote an environment of respect and inclusivity and making enhancements to our processes for investigating employee complaints."
"At the same time, we have retained an external law firm to conduct a review of recent reports of employee-workplace matters and to provide recommendations on how we might further advance our processes and procedures," he said.
He also stressed to shareholders that "just as we ask of other companies, we have a long-term strategy aimed at improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at BlackRock. Our goal is to build, develop and retain a diverse talent pipeline while fostering a culture where everyone feels seen, heard and empowered to thrive."
Further, he said that "to truly drive change, we must embed DEI into everything we do. Advancing a more equitable and inclusive environment begins by examining our own culture and talent practices, but we cannot be content to stop there. Our global strategy aims to advance DEI holistically."