Mr. Fink explained to shareholders that he wrote his letter at home where he is working remotely due to COVID-19 precautions "like millions of other people," including more than 90% of BlackRock's 16,200 employees who also worked remotely in recent weeks.
"Since January, the coronavirus has overtaken our lives and transformed our world, presenting an unprecedented medical, economic and human challenge. The implications of the coronavirus outbreak for every nation and for our clients, employees and shareholders are profound, and they will reverberate for years to come," Mr. Fink said.
Mr. Fink told shareholders that he has never experienced an event like the COVID-19 outbreak during his 44-year tenure in the financial industry, but he stressed that "as dramatic as this has been, I do believe that the economy will recover steadily, in part because this situation lacks some of the obstacles to recovery of a typical financial crisis. Central banks are moving quickly to address problems in credit markets, and governments are now acting aggressively to enact fiscal stimulus. The speed and the shape of these policies are deeply influenced by the world's experience during the global financial crisis in 2008. I also believe their actions are likely to be more effective and work more quickly since they are not fighting against the same structural challenges as they were a decade ago."
Mr. Fink added: "That is not to say the world is without risk, nor to suggest that the market has reached its bottom. It is impossible to know. There are also significant challenges ahead for heavily indebted businesses, and if governments are not careful in the design of their stimulus programs, the economic pain from the outbreak will fall disproportionately on the shoulders of the most economically vulnerable individuals."
With regard to economic recovery, Mr. Fink told shareholders about BlackRock's role in the process through its Financial Markets Advisory practice, noting that the firm is "serving and advising governments as they seek new ways to support the households, businesses and economies of their respective nations in this unprecedented situation."
He said BlackRock was selected to assist the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Bank of Canada "on programs designed to facilitate capital to businesses and support the economy." He said BlackRock will "continue to work with governments around the globe to help them navigate this difficult period."
With regard to serving its client base, Mr. Fink said the firm's portfolio and relationship managers have been in "close contact with clients through phone calls and video conferences, making sure that our clients are safe and healthy, that they have the information they need and get prompt answers to their urgent questions."
Mr. Fink said "for some BlackRock clients, the recent sell-off created an attractive opportunity to rebalance into equities. Indeed, many of our clients — even those who generally have a heavy allocation to fixed income due to their risk profiles — are looking to increase their equity allocation in this market."
Mr. Fink said the firm's main priorities are "ETFs, illiquid alternatives and technology (which) will drive BlackRock's growth this decade. But we cannot just focus on what's happening in front of us. BlackRock has always dedicated time and resources to taking a step back and looking at our business and our industry beyond a five- or even ten-year time horizon, because it's equally important to plant the seeds for the biggest opportunities yet to come."
Mr. Fink also addressed the issue of succession in his letter, noting "while I have no intentions of leaving BlackRock anytime soon, I also will not be here forever. I have worked closely with my Board of Directors over the last decade to ensure we have a thoughtful plan and process in place for not only my successor, but every senior leader at the firm who plays a critical role in BlackRock's day-to-day activities."
BlackRock managed a total of $7.43 trillion as of Dec. 31.