Relationships between commercial banks and Wall Street investment management firms can work, according to Laurence D. Fink, chairman and chief executive of BlackRock Inc.
Last week PNC Bank Corp., which acquired BlackRock in 1995, said it would consolidate its entire $108 billion-asset management business under the BlackRock umbrella. Mr. Fink, a former bond trader who helped found BlackRock in 1992, will lead the new unit, which will consist of five PNC asset management businesses.
"Here's a bunch of neurotic New Yorkers that merged into a Pittsburgh bank and it's worked," quipped Mr. Fink in an interview this week. "The whole theme of what transpired with this merger-this worked."
BlackRock, an offshoot of the Blackstone Group, a prestigious New York investment banking boutique, is primarily known as a fixed-income money manager with a heavy institutional slant. Since acquisition by PNC three years ago, its assets under management have doubled to $55 billion, Mr. Fink said.
Now BlackRock will add PNC's three equities-focused asset management businesses to its mix, as well its liquidity management unit and proprietary mutual fund complex. All the asset management arms will seek to forge a "brand identity" under the BlackRock name, using the same technology, marketing, and investment process, Mr. Fink said.
BlackRock is "not a household name-no one is making that assumption," Mr. Fink said. "But it's well-known."
He said he aims to double the assets managed under the BlackRock moniker to $200 billion within five years.
Observers agree that the BlackRock name has clout in the money management business. But it remains to be seen whether PNC can leverage BlackRock's identity when marketing to new investors, including consumers, said Geoffrey H. Bobroff a mutual fund consultant based in East Greenwich, R.I.
"BlackRock is a good institutional fixed-income name, but it has no other patina in terms of recognition in the marketplace," he said.
According to PNC executives, the BlackRock consolidation is indicative of the Pittsburgh-based banking company's belief that it is not competing just with banks, but with the asset management universe at large, said Walter E. Gregg Jr., a PNC senior executive vice president.
"We need to be fully competitive in every respect, including in providing the management with an equity stake in the business," he said.
All of BlackRock's founding partners are still with the firm-a fact that Mr. Fink said has not gone unrecognized by PNC. "We lived up to their expectations in terms of (investment) process and people," he said.
And in what Mr. Fink described as a "very unusual" move for a bank, during last week's reorganization the 22 BlackRock partners signed a five- year contract with PNC that gives them a 20% equity stake in the firm.
"It's a reaffirmation, and everyone signed up," Mr. Fink said.
The consolidation under BlackRock did not happen overnight. Provident Capital Management, an institutional manager, and PIMC Institutional Management, PNC's liquidity management arm, have been reporting to BlackRock for several months now and are set to assume the BlackRock name soon.
PNC Equity Advisors and CastleInternational Asset Management, which both focus on equities, will also take the BlackRock name over the next few months. Compass Capital Funds, PNC's proprietary fund family, did so in January.
Richard C. Caldwell, the executive who headed asset management at PNC before the BlackRock reorganization, continues to run PFPC Inc., the bank's mutual fund processing group. Mr. Caldwell is also on BlackRock's board of directors, as is Mr. Gregg.
The bank's wealth management unit, known as Hawthorn, also still reports to Mr. Caldwell, said Mr. Gregg. "His role has been changed, but there is very significant responsibility that is attendant to that role," Mr. Gregg said.
BlackRock has already set up a marketing team. Barbara G. Novick, who ran marketing for the original BlackRock, will lead the institutional push. Retail marketing will be jointly headed by Karen H. Sabath, who was president of Compass Capital, and John Moran, who led Provident Institutional Funds.
Mr. Fink said that as yet no advertising campaign has been planned to alert the wider retail market to the BlackRock name.
Looking to the future, Mr. Fink said BlackRock would not overlook opportunities to grow through acquisition. He said he already has his eye on one firm, which he declined to name.
However, he said, "what we really want to acquire is good people."