About Episode

Salim Ramji is a Senior Managing Director and Global Head of iShares and Index Investments for BlackRock and a member of the firm’s Global Executive Committee.
Prior to that he was Head of BlackRock’s U.S. Wealth Advisory business. Salim joined BlackRock in 2014, serving initially as the Global Head of Corporate Strategy. Before joining BlackRock, he was a Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company where he led the Asset & Wealth Management practice areas. He started his career as a corporate finance and M&A lawyer in London and Hong Kong.
Salim earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and politics from University of Toronto, a law degree from Cambridge University and is a CFA charter holder. He is also a trustee of Graham Windham, a New York-based child care agency.
This episode is about nothing less than finding one’s purpose in life. For Salim that is making investing easier for millions of people. We talk about ETFs, passive, and index investing, new trends in technology, the recent trading boom and how startups helped facilitate that. We took about the influx of new investors that never before have participated in the markets. We talk about sustainability and it’s relation to ETFs, we talk about corporate governance and BlackRocks innovations to let clients vote even in passive vehicles.

Links

https://www.fnlondon.com/articles/blackrocks-salim-ramji-investors-love-etfs-not-crypto-or-meme-stocks-20211213

https://medium.com/wharton-fintech/blackrocks-salim-ramji-global-head-of-ishares-index-investments-serving-100-million-investors-e5ec058cc16c

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/salim-ramji-on-esg-investing-podcast/id730188152?i=1000489452878

https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/about-us/leadership/salim-ramji

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https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreasvonhirschhausen/

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Be well,

Andy

Disclaimer: Information contained in this podcast constitutes the opinions of individuals and should not be treated as investment, tax, financial or legal advice. We take no responsibility for the accuracy of any statements made in this podcast. This podcast is for informational and educational purposes only and it does not contain an offer to sell or buy any sort of financial products and should not be treated as advertisement for such. Any copying, distribution or reproduction of this podcast without the prior permission of the creators of the podcast is strictly prohibited.

Transcript

EPISODE 88

[INTRODUCTION]

 

[00:00:04] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Wall Street Lab podcast, where we interview top financial professionals and deconstruct their practices to give you an insider look into the world of finance.

[00:00:23] AVH: Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Wall Street Lab podcast. Our guest today is Salim Ramji. Salim is a Senior Managing Director and Global Head of iShares and Index Investments for BlackRock, and a member of the firm’s Global Executive Committee. Prior to that, he was head of BlackRocks’s US Wealth Advisor Business.

Salim joined Blackrock in 2014, serving initially as a Global Head of Corporate Strategy. Before joining Blackrock, he was a Senior Partner at McKinsey and Company, where he led the asset and wealth management practice areas. He started his career as a corporate finance and M&A lawyer in London and Hong Kong. Salim earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and politics from the University of Toronto, a law degree from Cambridge University, and is a CFA charterholder. He is a trustee of Graham Windham, a New York-based child agency.

[INTERVIEW]

[00:01:11] AVH: Salim, welcome to the show. It’s a pleasure to have you.

[00:01:13] SR: Thanks, Andreas. It’s great to be here.

[00:01:15] AVH: So, I think I don’t have to introduce BlackRock very much, the global players in passive and index investing. But if you could say a bit about yourself, where you’re coming from, and then maybe if you could just give us some updated numbers on actually how huge the business is you and your teams are managing. That will be super interesting to start with, I think.

[00:01:37] SR: Sure. So, look, you went through my bio and the like, Andreas. And a couple of things, I grew up in Canada. But one piece, which wasn’t in my bio, but as I was just reflecting on my own personal kind of career and the like, was that after college, after law school, I spent about a year working in microfinance up in the north of Pakistan. And this is getting out to the very small loans, to farmers and new women’s enterprises and the like. And I know there’s a little bit of a stretch, but it’s a – At least at the time, it really pointed to me about the power and the impact that finance, done well, can have on people’s lives, even people who were just at the very bottom end of the income scale.

And if I think about my various career paths, whether it was in law, or consulting, or even where I sit today, the thing that gets me the most excited about my job right now is that there’s a version of that, which is trying to help make investing more affordable and more accessible to a lot of different people around the world.

And it’s a stretch, 30 years ago, 25 years ago, when I did that job, I wasn’t thinking about this job. But I do think that there is, even in retrospect, a strand of a purpose there and a strand of making sure that whatever career that any of us kind of embark on, that it’s got some meaning, it’s got some purpose, and it’s attempting to have an impact, hopefully, in a positive way, in terms of the clients and the societies that we serve. So anyway, that was one piece that wasn’t in my bio, but at least for me, it was an important early influence in terms of what I ended up doing.

[00:03:10] AVH: I love that you mentioned that, because I would have brought it up definitely, on how you came to be where you are today, because a lot of our listeners are young professionals, maybe students and just like looking for some guides. And I’m just listening right now to Howard Marks as the most important thing. And he says hindsight first, right? He would love to have this hindsight at the beginning of something. And I think this is also what you described a bit, right? In hindsight, actually, my first job made a lot of sense to where I am today now, right? But you can only have the story after the fact. Not the other way around.

[00:03:44] SR: Yeah. And you need to give yourself a chance to explore things a little bit. And yeah, context matters. I grew up and went to college and worked in a world, which was globalizing at a rapid pace. And so I’ve lived on different continents. I’ve worked and went to college on different continents. And that’s certainly benefited the career path and career trajectory that I’ve been on. But I do think making oneself open to new ideas, and new people, and new experiences also really matters, because I wouldn’t have thought back then – I mean, back then, when I was working that job, Blackrock didn’t exist as a separate company yet even. So I wouldn’t have thought that I’d be doing what I’m doing. But I think that the only advice, if there’s like advice to give, is make yourself open to new opportunities and have curiosity about new ideas.

And at least for me, like having some purpose, even if the purpose changes or kind of a defining piece to it, or at least seeking that out, was an important thing. You never quite get there. But I think the opportunity to seek it out and seek a broader purpose is a really important thing in any career. And it’s true when I was 22. It’s true now while I’m 51.

[00:04:56] AVH: I love that. Yesterday, I spoke with my coach about what got me into finance. And then I was like, at first, it was like the flair of Wall Street, like The Wolf of Wall Street kind of movie. I was like, “Yeah, that’s like super cool.” But for me it was the other way around. It was like I got into like for the prestige and for like the money. And then I started traveling the world. And I learned that like, “No, actually finance can be a force for good.” Now, all I want to do is like create what you describe as like helping others invest and like making finance a force for good. And I love this. How did you find your purpose? How did you think about it? How might somebody starting out their career think about what might be their purpose?

[00:05:35] SR: Yeah. And I think it’s a journey, right? I don’t think it’s some point of enlightenment at the age of 22, or 32, or 42. I think it’s an ongoing piece. And at least it’s trying to ensure that whatever one does, it’s having a positive impact at the most tangible level to your team around you, hopefully at a broader level to the clients that you serve. And if you want to get even more grand, even to the communities and the economies that you work with.

And as I said, I don’t think there’s going to be a moment in one’s career or one’s life that you’re sort of like, “Right. I’m done. I’ve achieved that.” But I think that the journey of seeking that I think is an important guideposts to – At least it’s been an important guideposts in my career, even if the journey always feels incomplete at any moment kind of around it.

[00:06:20] AVH: Yeah. I mean, well, 51, you have so much more in the future ahead of you. It would be sad if you already achieved everything you wanted at 51, right? Where would we go from here?

[00:06:29] SR: No, I don’t think that’s – Yeah. So I think part of the journey is just kind of make oneself open to seek different things out and changing and the like. But you had a question about BlackRock and BlackRock’s kind of size and numbers and the like around that. Do you want to touch on that?

[00:06:43] AVH: Yes, exactly. Because I think it ties in perfectly into your purpose, because what you do is going really well at the moment. So you’re on a good path, I think, to fulfill your purpose. But I guess with some growth numbers and the recent impact ETFs had on the Blackrock’s business and society as a whole, if you could tie that together, I think then we full circle back.

[00:07:04] SR: Yeah. It’s interesting. Last year was the 50th anniversary of the invention of indexation. And it was invented by a predecessor firm, a BlackRock’s firm that we bought a dozen or so years ago, back in 1971. And I spoke to the person who invented this. And the underlying idea and ethos, which was true in 1971, I think it’s still true in 2022, is are there ways to simplify and make investing easier for a broad base of investors?

And so there is a governing ethos in what we do across our ETFs. Now, ETFs are only 30 years old. They’re not 51 years old. But there’s a governing ethos there around making investing easier and more affordable for more and more people. That was true 50 years ago. It was true at the beginnings of iShares, just over 20 years ago. It’s true today. And I hope and expect it will be true 10 years from now and 20 years from now. And I think that’s the governing ethos of what we’re trying to do, which is making investing easier, more affordable.

And there’s been a lot written and talked about, Andreas, about BlackRock’s asset size in terms of number of dollars. And it’s a significant number. And ETFs and indexation is about two-thirds of BlackRock’s client assets. But the number that I pay a lot of attention to is not just the number of client assets, because none of these assets are around. They’re managed on behalf of other people. It’s the number of 120 million people, because that’s the number of people whose assets that we manage, their money, their retirement money, their first-time investment money through our ETFs and through our index exposures.

And then if you ask what’s the average size of the holding of those 120 million people? It’s about $50,000. Now that aggregates up to a very large number of just over $6 trillion. But I think if you think about 120 million people who, on average, have about $50,000 to invest, and sometimes it’s in their DC plan, sometimes they’re a first-time investor. And what we’re really trying to do is how do we help that $50,000 grow to 60, to 70, to 80, through responsible, diversified, efficient and transparent investments? And I’m certainly biased, but I think the ETF is a marvelous vehicle in which to do all those things. And how do we grow the pool of people from 120 million people? And I think there’s a market out there of 200 million, of 300 million, of many hundreds of millions of people who just want a good, fair deal and a simple way in which to access and enter markets. And I think those are the really two, if you kind of take sort of the more broad-based purpose pieces that we talked about just a few minutes ago, and you’re trying to distill it down to like a governing purpose for our team, it’s really about how do we get more and more people so that 120 million, I’d love to be 200 million and more, and make it easier more affordable for them to invest so that 50,000 grows to a bigger number over time?

[00:10:05] AVH: What are current trends that support this purpose of you? So I read in different news articles, different podcasts that you gave, that the number of investors, just in the last two years since the pandemic started, is skyrocketing. I don’t see this is my personal field. Like so many friends have never bothered asking about my job, about my background before are suddenly, “Hey, Andy, can you give me some financial advice? Where do I invest?” And I get this question so much. And I feel like just there was such a huge uptick. What do you think is responsible for this huge uptick? Do people have more time during COVID? Are they more varied? Are they looking at it? Or are there FinTech innovations that help people get access to those kinds of ETFs and investment strategies?

[00:10:47] SR: Well, I think there are a few really interesting trends that are all happening at the same time. First, just in terms of the numbers. Since the pandemic started, we had about 40 million people all around the world open up investment accounts for the first time. Now, many of them are opening up these investment accounts on digital platforms. And there’s a growing exciting market in Europe, whole range of digital platforms emerging. Certainly, that’s the case here in the United States. But there are also some very large, very significant incumbents that have been doing this for many, many years really extremely successfully as well.

And so, the first piece is just the quantity of people entering the marketplace, which over the past two years, more people have opened up investment accounts than in the past decade, just to give you a sense of the context. I think the second thing is that when we looked into who are these people, many of them are millennial investors, right? So 30 something investors often putting a few $100 or a few $1,000 to work for the very first time. And many of them, they’re like your friends, who are the first-time investors kind of on these platforms.

And I think one of the other exciting developments is that for the first time ever, really, that you now have many hundreds of millions of people that have access to commission-free platforms. There are many more of these commission-free platforms across Europe. The United States back in 2019, effectively moved to commission-free platforms through a series of competitive moves. And that’s really brought a whole range of investors in for the first time, because it’s lowered barriers, the digital platforms were often very easy to use, and they appeal to a generation that wants to engage electronically for the first time.

And I think the thing that’s really interesting is that when you look at their actual behaviors, there’s a lot written about meme stocks, and there’s a lot written about kind of the excitement and the drama. And, look, from a narrative point of view, it’s compelling, at least in the United States, where the narrative is strongest, less than 1% of retail trading transactions are in those. 65% of retail transactions are moving towards purchases of ETFs.

So even if you discount the narrative with the facts, what’s happening is that more and more of these investors, first, they’re opening accounts for the first time. Second, the vehicle that they’re most often using is the ETF. And so they’re buying broader base, diversified holdings.

Now, it may not be your classic broad base market indices. It may be thematic exposure. It may be an ESG exposure. It may be some of the more novel ETFs that are out there relative to things that were in the marketplace 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, or 30 years ago. And it’s most stark actually in Germany.

So just to give the example of Germany, a few years ago, it was a few 100,000 German investors that were investing in ETF savings plans. Today, 5 million Germans are investing in ETF savings plans. On average, they’re putting about 160 euros a month into these plans. And we expect over the next three to four years that that number is going to be 20 million. So one in four Germans going to be investing through these ETF savings plans. And more often than not, these are low cost, transparent, diversified holdings. And it’s a way to also build an investing culture in a society that’s had a strong savings culture, but hasn’t had an investing culture.

And so, it goes back to this general ethos, if you will, of if you can make investing easier and more affordable, you start to bring more and more people into the marketplace even if it’s for just starting out or even if it’s for relatively small amounts. And so, I think that’s a really good thing, whether it’s in Germany, or in the United States, or in any other markets that have expanded digital platforms, expanded access to commission-free ETF purchases.

[00:14:30] AVH: Yeah, as a German, I can definitely confirm the savings culture. It is always difficult conversation stuff of the older generation about investing and not about savings. I wonder, honestly, if you said in an interview, and I really want to dig into this a bit, ETF bias are the ultimate long-term shareholders. What is a bit crazy to me is why did it need commission-free platforms for long-term shareholders, right? Because when do you want commission-free? When do you want to reduce trading costs if you want to trade? If you want to invest? It doesn’t really matter if you pay $10 upfront, or $5, or $0, because you invest it for 40, 50 years. But I guess this is just like how people are. Just like we could probably go to the psychology for ages. But I would love to – Either, if you have a thought on this, please feel free to share it. If not, I would go talk about ultimate long-term shareholders and what you mean with that. You can take it wherever you want it.

[00:15:30] SR: Yeah, so let me describe what I mean by that. And if you take an example of – So index investing is empirically a very long-term investment, because as long as you’re in the underlying index, the S&P 500, to take a classic example, we’re going to track you. We’re going to hold an investment in proportion to your market cap.

And so if you look at the S&P 500, for example, or S&P 500 funds, our average holding period for a company is 25 years. And so what that means is that for investors holding one of our S&P 500 ETFs and for companies that we invest in through that ETF or through other index exposures, we’re going to be holding that company for the medium to long term, often for more than a couple of decades.

Now, an individual investor may trade in and out of that ETF over a given period of time. But as far as we look at it, we’ll be holding that investment for a very long-term period. And if I contrast it a little bit, and I’ll give you an example from the US, because the US is where the data is the richest, if you look at the average active equity mutual fund in the United States, the average holding period of a company there is 18 months.

And so you have these very different holding periods from like one-and-a-half years to 25 years. And so as long as a company is in an underlying index, the weights may be different over time, depending on how the company does. But the underlying holding is there for the long term. And I think that what the advantage that gives to an investor through an ETF is it’s best served for kind of long-term, medium to long term investments. It doesn’t mean if somebody wants to get in and out of an exposure, they certainly can. And commission-free trading can enable that.

But I think one of the great benefits of commission-free is that it’s reduced the barriers to entry. And we can certainly see it in Germany, but we can see it in our own you know personal lives, is that sometimes if there’s a fee on top, you don’t want to do it. I was watching a movie this weekend, and on Amazon Prime wanted to charge me 399 for it. And on Netflix, it was free. And so I went through. I obviously chose the free option with my subscription to Netflix.

And so even for – In this case, it was $3.99, you find people choosing one platform that offers it for no fee. And I think the same thing is true for investing, that if you’re able to make it easier for people to come in, you’ll bring more people into it. And on average, most of these holders are kind of buy and hold investors. And certainly, there will be a segment of active traders and tactical asset allocators in institutions. But the underlying ETF itself tends to hold the investment for a much, much longer period than, honestly, any other investment category. That’s certainly true relative to active public market investments. That’s even true relative to things like private equity or even some other “long-term investment holdings.” 25 years is a very long time in the scheme of a company’s shareholding to typically be a shareholder. And that’s one of the reasons why I think indexation, or what I’ve said, is indexation isn’t really ultimately a long-term investment.

[00:18:36] AVH: Yeah, especially since I think the average time a company stays in the S&P, for example, went down, right? And your time that you hold the company went up, I wonder – So I read that you have a very large stewardship team. And I’ve spoken with other ETF index fund companies, and they also place a high value on this. And one of the – I think in the early days. Now, today, not so much anymore. One of the arguments against passiveness was like, “Oh, yeah, but then the votes of the people, they just kind of go missing. They’re not done purposely.” But that’s why you have a huge stewardship team. Did it change the whole approach of the whole governance? How you do vote in companies change, because you have this new long-term investment horizon, right? Before, mutual funds, they kind of like, “Oh, yeah, I want to have to increase in dividends next week because I have to return money, right? I have to have my own performance.” For the index fund, you can say, “No, no. Keep the dividends. Reinvest it if the growth is there.” Did this change over the last couple of years, how your stewardship manages?

[00:19:40] SR: I think it probably changed. And some of this – I’ve been at BlackRock eight or nine years. But if you go back to the period in which BlackRock acquired BGI, that was probably the moment at which things started to change. Because as you pointed out, Andreas, the active manager always has the option to sell the company. The index manager – If the company is in an index, we have an obligation to continue to track that index faithfully. And that’s what clients are asking us to do. And so we don’t have an option to sell if a company has a bad quarter or has a bad kind of earning cycle, provided that they’re in the index.

I think the big shift, if I were to point it back, was around the moment of that acquisition, because I think that the importance of stewardship, particularly for index holding, which became part of Blackrock back in 2009, 2010, rose. And that’s when Larry and others really started to invest much more significantly in the capabilities of our stewardship team.

And there’s many reports that our stewardship team will publish that I’m very proud of, in terms of the number of engagements they have, the number of votes they do, the number of meetings they attend. And really, it’s a staggering amount of complexity. But at the heart of it are really two things, if I could distill it down, which is, one, we’re trying to look to the medium to long-term. Because, ultimately, that’s what our holdings are, back to our earlier point. Rather than to next week or next quarter’s performance, we’re trying to hold to medium and long term.

And second, if you really cut through a lot of the essence, a lot of this is about better disclosure. Because in most cases, or in many cases, we’ll be holding a market portfolio, that there’s an underlying ethos there that the market is better. If more companies are disclosing things, then the market can decide. The market’s judgment around, “Are those things good for long-term shareholder value or not?” But the act of disclosure is a good thing. And so you’ll see, even in our voting record around stewardship, a lot of focus around disclosure to give the market and market participants better information about how companies are doing.

I think the thing that I would say in the most recent history, because I’m painting a 10-plus year journey here, Andreas. But if you look more to kind of the past six months, the thing that I’m the most excited about that we’ve been doing is enabling more and more clients to exercise votes on their own behalf to the extent that they want to. And so earlier this year, we announced this. And I think it was a big shift across the industry. Certainly, it required two or three years of pre-work within BlackRock just around all the operational, and technology and partnership elements about it. But at the core of it is the point that I’ve made earlier in this, which is that it isn’t our money. The money belongs to the 120 million people that we serve. And so we had worked to really create, if you will, the technology to create the partnerships to enable just around half of those people, 60 million of the 120 million, or about 42%, 43% of the total index assets, index equity assets, that we manage by size, the ability to vote their shares if they chose to do so.

And so if you’re a large pension plan, whether it’s a DB plan, or a DC plan, a public plan, or a private plan, or if you’re a foundation, if you’re a university endowment, and we manage money on your behalf, and you want to vote differently than what our stewardship team has published and put out kind of across it, you now have the ability to do that. And I think that’s a really exciting development, because it both puts greater focus and customization in the hands of clients where they want that. And they can choose to do it themselves. We’ve created a menu of six or seven different choices if they wanted to pick off the menu. Or if they either liked the way in which we’re doing it, or they just want the convenience of us doing it, we can also do it for them. And I think this is a real kind of just a further advancement in terms of the ability of providing ease and customization and choice to clients to the extent that they want to do it.

And we’ve now had like hundreds of conversations since we announced this with clients. And there’s you know, a lot of interest and a lot of really exciting developments. But there was also a lot of hard work, because the underlying piece of it was the underlying voting and proxy voting process is really quite antiquated. And so, it needed better technology that we’ve been investing in helping create. It needed a lot of partnerships. It needed a lot of work to figure out which regulatory environments would enable this, versus which ones are still a little bit outdated and would need some modernization before they could enable clients to do it. But we’re really excited about it.

But I’d sort of paint it more as it’s a 10 plus year journey. But I think the past year or so has been really exciting in part because we’ve been gearing up to make this announcement that we did back in January and late last year. We made it late last year, and then we put it into implementation in January of this year.

[00:24:31] AVH: I think personally, this is one when I listened to the podcast and direct interviews, this is one I really thought is really amazing, because you also give now clients a choice. As you said, you give them a choice, and it holds the people to a very high standard, right? Because the client was like, “Actually, like I can now check what is done not just transparency, but actually active choice.” Do you think this will even further? I know your commitment to like sustainability and like the increases in sustainable products. Do you think this, for example, does like small – Like, actually, this was a huge step. But like multiple steps towards a more sustainable future. I know one of the arguments some people have was like actually indexing, and EFTs, and sustainability don’t really go together. And I would love for you to repeat this argument that you have, and why actually it’s just one part of it, and then maybe together with people getting aware on how Blackrock votes and how they want to vote. I think this probably ties in very well together.

[00:25:31] SR: Let me try to answer your specific question. And then if you permit me, there’s a little bit more macro that I’d like to go around it. On this specific question, it’s like, look, the 120 million people we serve don’t agree on everything. What we really believe in is, first, just the fact it’s their money. It’s not ours. And second, if we can provide them choice, and we can provide them transparency, and we can provide them the ability to customize. And it could be the customization and could be just choosing one of our ESG ETFs, or not choosing one of our ETF. Like we got 1200 ETFs. And so there’s a broad choice for people to make in terms of how they want to invest. And there’s an even further choice that they can make in terms of do they want to get into the underlying of how votes happen, and certainly is very early days, right? We’re just several months into this announcement. But there’s been excitement from endowments, or clients that have a very strong sustainability ethos, wanted to invest in their own way.

They’ve also been excited from many different state plans here in the United States that love the idea of being able to standardize how managers voted. And so they’re really quite interested in the menu of different options that we’ve partnered to provide, because they want all their asset managers, whether it’s us or somebody else, to vote according to a standard ethos, which is in line with the principles of that state plan. And so it’ll be really interesting to see how this plays out. It’s obviously too early at this point to draw a trendline.

But what I’d say is that we’re seeing enthusiasm from clients all over. Could be big endowments that have an underlying philosophy. Could be big state plans here in the United States that really are looking for greater degrees of standardization across the many, many asset managers they work with. And they look at this as a leading step. And so that choice and customization aspect is really what we’re galvanized clients around. And we’ll publish every year in terms of how it’s all looking like in the like as we get a year into it, and two years into it. But I think it’s the start of a really exciting development for the industry, certainly for BlackRock, kind of around another aspect of choice and customization.

And if you allow me kind of the more macro point, beyond just stewardship. If you think about what we’re really about, right? Because I think these terms of like active and index are themselves outmoded. I think they’re the leftovers of a 20th century kind of set of ideas. But really about is that we’re really about creating more and more choice for people. We’re about having transparency into what the underlying holdings of that choice mean. And then we’re about enabling people to customize portfolios in the way that they want, whether it’s through ETFs, or funds, or separate accounts, or private holdings, or all the vehicles that are out there. And I think one of the really exciting things about the ETF as a technology is that it’s very elastic, right? It started out back in the early 90s wrapping a market cap-weighted portfolio.

When iShares first started out, a lot of what we provided was the ability for domestic investors to access international markets that were otherwise hard to be able to access. 20 years ago, we launched our first bond ETFs, which made a really opaque market easier to access for all kinds of investors. And so what’s exciting about the ETF wrapper is that for anything that is transparent, rules-based and investable, we can wrap it in an ETF. And a lot of the most exciting developments, particularly over the past couple of years, have been in things like active ETFs, or it’s been in things that are alternative-weighted indices, like ESG, or like factors, or like thematics.

And the benefit of the ETF is that you can wrap any range of securities, bonds, or equities, any public market securities, and then you can craft investment styles that are often blurring the boundaries between active and index in many different ways. And I think ESG is a great example of that, where you can build a customization into it, you can build the transparency into it. But through an ETF wrapper, our ETFs are like a quarter of the price of the comparable, sustainable, actively managed funds. And so there’s a real efficiency gain for clients as well.

So I think it’s that ability to use the technology in many different ways. ESG is just the current and very prime example where you can bring transparency, and efficiency, and choice, and customization, and all those aspects that were true in different markets. We’re just happening to do it in this market.

[00:29:55] AVH: In the end, it’s all has to be part of a whole broad solution, right? You can’t – I think in one interview you said, “In sustainable ETF, it’s not going to loan safe to world. But it’s a good start for me, for everybody.” Personally, I think it just gives you a low cost efficient way to start going into that direction without having the fear of like, “Oh, I suddenly have to pay the 2% again,” right? That’s been the whole thing that kind of ETFs wanted to break through. Now we’re going ESG active funds, which I think is a great thing, because they really can make an impact. But now suddenly, we’re jumping from 0.2 20 basis points back to 2% management fee. And then what? Right? We have to go figure that curve out.

But I want to be respectful of your time and give you just the last couple of minutes. If there’s anything that we haven’t touched upon that you want to get across? Any last words to our audience that you want to impose them. Maybe it’s about how they find a purpose or anything else?

[00:30:52] SR: Yeah. Look, I think each of us needs to find our own kind of – I gave you a little bit of lens on me. But we’re all different. We all have different motivations. I think the thing that for me, at least, especially in the job that I currently had, which I couldn’t imagine, and I don’t think it even existed when I look back at my first job that we talked about earlier, was the ability to find that purpose and that ethos.

And the great thing about BlackRock is that our underlying purpose is to help more and more people achieve financial well-being. And the great thing about the seat that I’m in within BlackRock around our iShares in index investing is that’s like the galvanizing purpose of the whole team, really focused on making it easier and more affordable for people to invest. So I’m really excited and optimistic. I think about the various changes that we’re seeing in the broader ecosystem, whether it’s more and more German investors investing for the first time, whether it’s 30 million Americans opening up investment accounts for the very first time. Because I think that the opportunity set to do what we do and what a few other companies do around making it easier and more affordable to invest I think has never been greater. And the technology now exists, whether it’s in the ETF or in digital platforms, or discretionary wealth, fiduciary platforms to be able to really, really enable this to certainly grow as a business. But I think, more fundamentally, to be able to really bring a broader purpose to our clients and to the societies in which we work as well. And so for me, that’s a really exciting reason to come to work every day.

[00:32:23] AVH: I love that as closing remarks. Sarim, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us. And take care.

[00:32:28] SR: Of course. It was a pleasure to speak to you, Andreas. Thank you.

[00:32:31] AVH: Thank you.

[OUTRO]

[00:32:34] ANNOUNCER: Thank you for listening to the Wall Street Lab podcast. For the show notes and much more, visit us at www.thewallstreetlab.com. To see what we’re up to before anyone else, subscribe to our newsletter on our website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

[00:33:04] AVH: Hey again, this is Andy. I hope you enjoyed the episode. If you did, please leave us a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts or wherever your podcast from. Share the episode with your friends, with your colleagues and everybody that is interested. And if you want to reach out, feel free to drop us an email, a message on social media. And I look forward to hearing your thoughts, your comments, your feedback. And thanks again for listening, have a great day.

Disclaimer: Information contained in this podcast constitutes the opinions of individuals and should not be treated as investment, tax, financial or legal advice. We take no responsibility for the accuracy of any statements made in this podcast. This podcast is for informational and educational purposes only and it does not contain an offer to sell or buy any sort of financial products and should not be treated as advertisement for such. Any copying, distribution or reproduction of this podcast without the prior permission of the creators of the podcast is strictly prohibited.

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Published On: May 12th, 2022 /

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