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Stephen Gandel

BlackRock Sells the Market, Now the Market Owns It

The giant asset manager could become a victim of its own success.
Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

BlackRock has become the world's largest asset manager by offering index funds that basically own the market. Increasingly, though, it is looking as if it's the market that owns BlackRock.

The world's biggest asset manager on Thursday morning reported first-quarter results that were largely good except for this: Net inflows into its global iShares exchange-traded funds declined 46 percent to $34.6 billion from a year ago. That was not unexpected. The market, U.S. stocks in particular, had a rocky quarter. The iShares funds are mostly owned by individual investors, and when the market is rocky, individual investors tend to sell, or at least not invest as much as they would when the market is rising.