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IPE special report May 2018

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BlackRock to combine active equity capabilities, create real assets group

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BlackRock is to combine its active equity capabilities as part of a significant organisational shake-up, including the creation of a real assets group, that will take effect next month.

Portfolio manager positions will be unaffected by the changes.

The new active equities platform will group fundamental and quant equity capabilities in a single unit.

In a staff briefing note today, BlackRock chairman and chief executive Larry Fink and president Rob Kapito said: “In a market environment characterised by more volatility, lower beta and increased dispersion, clients are increasingly looking for active equity solutions irrespective of whether they are fundamental or quantitative strategies.”

As part of the shake-up, Charles Prideaux, the current head of institutional client business for the EMEA region, is to move to a newly created role as head of active management for EMEA.

Prideaux will report to David Blumer, head of the EMEA region, and Rob Kapito, who is also chairman of the global operating committee.

Prideaux’s current role will be split between two individuals.

Justin Arter, currently country head for Australia, will manage institutional business for the UK, Middle East and Africa, while Peter Nielsen will continue as head of Continental European institutional business, as well as remaining the country head for the Netherlands and Nordic region.

BlackRock has seen positive net inflows into active strategies in recent quarters from institutions and net outflows from index strategies.

“Without doubt, active management will continue to play a crucial role in institutional portfolios with risk budgets to afford it and perhaps never more so than in the coming years,” Prideaux writes in the January 2016 issue of IPE.

Arno Kitts, head of UK institutional business, will leave BlackRock in April “to pursue a portfolio of individual opportunities within the industry”.

Kitts, formerly global head of distribution at Henderson, is also a former chair of the investment council of the Pensions & Lifetime Savings Association (previously the NAPF). 

The new real assets group, which will be headed by Jim Barry, will combine infrastructure and real estate to reflect the fact clients see these areas “as a distinct and more integrated asset class”.

Marcus Sperber will continue in his role as global head of real estate.

BlackRock will also expand its multi-asset strategies business with the appointment of Rich Kushel, previously chief product officer, to head the unit.

The BlackRock Investment Institute, the firm’s internal clearing house for information sharing, will broaden its mandate to include market insights from clients.

Ewen Cameron Watt, chief investment strategist, will step down from his full-time role in the unit from July but continue to serve as a senior director.

BlackRock’s full-year results are due to be announced on Friday.

The third quarter of 2015 saw inflows of $50bn (€45.8bn) and long-term institutional active inflows of $5.9bn, of which $4.1bn was in fixed income.

Passive long-term strategies saw net outflows of $700m, including equity net outflows of $1.8bn.

At the end of the third quarter, 97% of active quant equity products and 90% of active taxable fixed income performed above benchmark over three years, as measured in AUM terms.

For fundamental active equity strategies, the figure was 80%.                                                                                   

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