Larry Fink has mastered the art of personal branding in asset management — at least according to one marketing firm.
The BlackRock chief executive tops a ranking of the personal brands of 150 asset management CEOs produced by Peregrine Communications, a firm that advises asset managers on their brands and communication strategies. Fink was followed by Nicolas Moreau at HSBC Global Asset Management, Robert Smith from Vista Equity Partners, and Mary Erdoes from J.P. Morgan Asset Management.
The Peregrine report based personal branding success on five metrics: personal brand awareness, personal brand momentum, media sentiment, share of voice, and social media presence.
Fink is ranked first in each of the five categories. Citadel’s Ken Griffin and Elliott Management’s Paul Singer took the runner-up spots when it came to positive media sentiment and share of voice, a metric that measures how much a CEO has been covered by top-tier media. In the social media category, Fink is followed by Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman and Erdoes.
According to Josh Cole, co-CEO of Peregrine, Fink earned his top spot in part by taking a balanced stance on the issue of environmental, social, and governance investing after BlackRock got caught in the crossfire of ESG debates. On the one hand, the firm faces conservative legislators and anti-woke activists who claim that BlackRock’s emphasis on ESG interferes with the market and could cost investors billions of dollars. On the other hand, environmental activists argue that the firm hasn’t done enough to cut ties with carbon-intensive industries. Fink, who was aggressive on ESG investments at first, has gradually retreated to a middle ground.
Cole described Fink’s disengagement from the ESG discussion as a “thoughtful” approach. “I think it’s the only choice they have,” Cole told II in an interview. While many asset managers have leaned more heavily one way or the other, Cole feels that such engagement by BlackRock would be a “losing game,” given the vast amount of assets that the firm has under management.
The voices of asset management leaders can play an important role for the public, according to the report. Peregrine found that many asset management CEOs attract more attention than CEOs in other industries. For example, the monthly Google search figures for Fink and Griffin are significantly higher than the same figures for the CEOs of Exxon, McDonald’s, and Starbucks.
“This phenomenon really shows the scrutiny around financial services leaders at the moment,” Cole said.
The report also found that the CEOs of alternative investment managers are more aware of their personal brands than those running long-only asset management firms. More than 65 percent of the 20 most searched CEO names in the industry do business in the alternatives sector.
“Many CEOs in the top 10, especially among alts firms, are founders with decades of tenure, highlighting that legacy and track record are significant drivers of investor and media interest,” the report said.