BlackRock expanding efforts on impact investing

The largest money manager sees a future in portfolios that emphasize social goals

Feb 9, 2015 @ 10:44 am

By Trevor Hunnicutt

BlackRock Inc., the world's largest money manager by assets, on Monday announced the launch of a unit that will cater to investors who want to bring social or environmental goals to their portfolios.

The firm said it was installing Deborah Winshel, a figure in New York's philanthropic scene who most recently ran the Robin Hood Foundation, in a newly created position managing “BlackRock Impact.”

That unit will bring together the firm's existing values-based investment strategies — $225 billion across mutual funds, exchanged-traded funds and other products — and develop more.

The move is the latest endorsement by a major money manager in building investment products focused on goals beyond performance — for instance funds that try to promote environmental sustainability and religious values.

While much of the growth in that area has come from institutional investors, from retirement funds for religious organizations to large countries investing on behalf of their pensioners, the recent focus has also come in the retail wealth management space.

Wealth advisory firms from Morgan Stanley to Merrill Lynch, for instance, have made significant investments in that area in recent years.

BlackRock did not say how much of its efforts will focus on retail investors, but its existing offerings include iShares MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target ETF (CRBN), launched in December, which includes a higher allocation of funds to companies with a low-carbon footprint.

Ms. Winshel, who in addition to running poverty-focused Robin Hood in New York has a history in investment banks such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., will report to BlackRock's chief executive, Laurence D. Fink, and Richard Kushel, the firm's chief product officer, BlackRock said. She will also lead the firm's philanthropic activities.

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