BlackRock Amasses Almost $6 Trillion as ETF Business Surges

  • Asset manager saw $52 billion in ETF flows in third quarter
  • CEO Fink says tech allowing revenue to grow faster than costs

BlackRock Inc.’s quest to build scale by focusing on exchange-traded funds is reaping rewards.

The world’s largest asset manager pulled in $52 billion in its iShares ETF business in the third quarter, helping the firm exceed analysts’ revenue estimates for the first time in four quarters. And showing just how much BlackRock is an industry juggernaut, total assets under management surged to almost $6 trillion.

BlackRock has benefited from a flood of money into cheaper passive products as investors opt for those over higher fee active funds. Price cuts have also helped. The firm last October reduced prices on 15 core ETFs aimed at price sensitive retail clients and financial advisers. BlackRock has made up for any fee reductions with increased flows into those funds, Chief Executive Officer Laurence D. Fink said on the company’s earnings conference call.

Read more on Fink’s market outlook

“We are looking at technology to enable much greater flows,” Fink said in an interview with Bloomberg News on Wednesday. “The greatest component of future technology is to be better connected with clients, to have more technology enabled sales.”

Along with expanded use of technology, BlackRock is also aiming to increase revenue faster than operating expenses, Fink said on CNBC. In the third quarter, revenue increased 14 percent from a year earlier while operating expenses increased 13 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Aladdin’s Magic

Shares of BlackRock rose 0.8 percent to $468.58 at 10:40 a.m. in New York trading. The stock is up 22 percent this year through Monday, compared with 14 percent for the S&P 500.

Gains in BlackRock’s Aladdin business, which helps clients manage risk in their portfolios, are also helping, Fink said. Revenue from technology and risk management, driven by Aladdin, increased 15 percent from a year earlier, the company said in a statement.

While last quarter’s ETF haul marked a decline from a record $74 billion gathered by the products in the second quarter of this year, it was still higher than the year-earlier figure. But the quarter wasn’t only about these low-cost products.

“Performance on the active business on some of the hedge funds was really really strong this quarter,” said Kyle Sanders, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co. “That was the wild card and that is what put them over the top.”

All of that contributed to BlackRock posting strong revenue numbers -- $3.23 billion for the third quarter versus the estimate of $3.09 billion.

— With assistance by Brandon Kochkodin

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