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Executives

Rob Kapito – Co-Founder and President

BlackRock, Inc. (BLK) Goldman Sachs Financial Services Conference Call December 10, 2013 11:30 AM ET

Unidentified Analyst

We’re going to keep the momentum going here. We are very, very pleased to have with us today, Rob Kapito, Co-Founder and President of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with over $4 trillion in assets under management. So first off Rob thank you so much for joining us and let’s dive right in. We did hear from few specialists in the alternative investment world around credit opportunities etcetera fixed income but, one of the topics that I want to discuss today has been this evolution of the industry from point of products specific managers or managing products to more holistic solutions providers and solutions has been a word in the BlackRock vocabulary for quite a long time. But maybe you can help us understand what that means? What solutions mean for the BlackRock and for the business and more importantly, if you think about how are you going to maintain your edge as others try and get into the solutions business?

Robert Kapito

Okay well first of all thank you for having me here and for those of you who are shareholders, we very much appreciate it and hope you’re happy. We look at the asset management business is changing very dramatically and for many years, a firm would have a product and you’d go out and have sales people that would call on potential clients to buy that product. I think it’s changed quite a bit and we have a very different model for that because we’re a fiduciary, we’re only in one business; the asset management business and we have to look at our returns for our clients in the same lens that they have. They have an issue. They’re looking for a portfolio, they’re looking for a certain return, they’re looking to match a certain liability. So what we do is we look at that lens and what I want to do is have a holistic conversation with them, about what they’re trying to do, go away and come back and try to bring them the solution that they’re looking for. And the solution could be some passive, a piece of passive products, active products, alternative products, it could be a number of different things that we want to bundle and provide to them and then make sure that they are seeing what the risk is on a regular basis, transparently through technology. And that’s what our business is about and that’s what we call solutions.

So that’s one way which is a bundled product. Now in order to do that, you have to have a number of products, in order to make sure that you can asset allocate from time to time for what people are looking for. So rather than talk to people about income, I would rather talk to people about outcome. And also to provide those services, I have to have very different people because I’m not bringing the Coke truck, the Pepsi truck, the Fanta truck and passive active you have to be able to go in and talk holistically about what this is about. Now that’s being translated in another way to clients through model portfolios. And through the lens of a retail investor through a distribution network for the wire houses, the way that looks, it’s all about asset allocation. So we have to provide asset allocation models that clients can actually execute themselves or we will execute them for them. So that’s another way to do it. And then a third way to prove that we’re right in this, is that we have seen a huge amount of barbelling taking place. And what that means is that clients have felt that we are going through a period where active managers have underperformed their benchmark.

So what they’re doing is separating their alpha data, what they are doing is getting their beta from passive or ETFs and they’re getting their alpha from alternatives. So you’ve seen over the last several years a growth of the passive business and the ETF business, demonstrating the beta side and you see the large inflow into all of the alternative products whether it’d be hedge funds or whether it’d be private equity or fund to funds. And that describes the direction that we were going in which actually describes one of the reasons why we did the acquisition of BGI because they had the largest passive business and we didn’t have a big enough passive business. So we’re the beneficiary now of this trend of barbelling. So it’s really the bundled solutions issue, it’s the modeled portfolios and it’s this asset allocation through modeled portfolios that we’re seeing a lot of interest and that’s how we set ourselves up. So that’s what we mean by solutions it’s not just doing a little math, it’s actually providing these. And when you think about it, many clients have the same issue. So you can develop a strategy or a solution that fits many institutions and fits many retail investors and get very good economies of scale from it.

Unidentified Analyst

And one of those solutions sort of in the market today may be one of the hop issues is in retail liquid alternatives and may be you can gives us some idea, your alternative solutions that you’re providing when you think about the retail liquid alternatives and alternative solutions and how those who fit into the equation for you?

Robert Kapito

Well one of the things that bothers me is that when people say retail, they have sort of a connotation about it that one is the fees are higher and people are not may be as savvy. It’s really not the case. Today with the Internet, with information, all of you have every piece of information that you can possibly need. The retail market, the individual market, the mom-and-pop market is a very, very important market and is an intermediary into these markets to get to those people and they’re also very savvy about what’s good and what’s not good. But the area of concern has been that higher returns have historically come from alterative investments, and alternative investment are not just hedge funds, they can be real-estate, infrastructure funds other hard asset funds that typically the minimums or the net worth of a person investing in had to be higher. So the retail investor didn’t have access to many of the products the institutional investor has had access to. Now you have an individual investor who’s sitting there and they’re in cash and there is $10 trillion that’s sitting in cash. So the opportunity is incredible and they have the same problem an institution has they have enough income and they like to barbell too except that the other part of the barbell is not been available to them.

So what have to be created was a wrapper that was liquid and that was available, diversified and really fit as a fiduciary, an individual investor and that’s what we have developed and a number of other institutions have developed that wrapper and we’re seeing tremendous success for the same reason that the institutions have the success because they can get higher returns and also barbell their trades. So we think that’s a great area, for BlackRock, it’s the perfect area for us because we’re a known in the retail market because of the 32 closed end funds that we have done. We’re known for the top distribution by some of the top firms in that business so they know us as a household name. I have probably visited more offices for retail brokers than probably anybody else in the industry, in my capacity and we have a real network of call centers and 1,500 people that call under broker dealer network globally. So what we have done is we’ve wrapped these alterative investments, the way these clients would want them and you have to do them differently so that there is more liquidity, because these clients demand more liquidity and we’ve seen a huge amount of flow into those products.

Now the other area that I think is also really interesting in the retail sector is moving from core bond to unconstrained fixed income. And I think that’s going to be a very big trend that you’re going to see very simply because bonds are not giving people the income that they need and more people think that interest rates are going to rise than are going to decline. So we’ve raised -- we started a strategic income opportunities fund with a great track record and we’ve raised -- we just went over the $10 billion mark and a lot of that is coming from the retail sector. So there is this movement of cash into something where they can get some yield and that would be described may be in the high yield, alternative other baskets that aren’t just a typical baskets.

Unidentified Analyst

And before we talk a little bit more about how investors are rethinking about their portfolio, I’m curious you mentioned you can go on the Internet -- the role of technology and may be BlackRock solutions, and how to better understanding the risk in technology is affecting your business and your flow? And then may be take us through how BRS is an advantage for you?

Robert Kapito

Yes, so most of the technology in the financial community is on the sell side, that’s how it historically was. And I was on the sell side of the business for many years and we created many products and then the clients would ask us how did they do? And it always struck me as odd if they didn’t, why would they buy it if they didn’t know what the risk is and what they would do? And what we did from day one in 1988 is start to create risk analytics for the buy side. And this has now become a business where we now have 14 trillion that’s on our risk system for not only clients of ours but also competitors of ours. And what it does is, it doesn’t tell you what to buy, it tells you what the risk is of what you own. And some of you out here representing institutions actually use our analytics and this has become a very big business for us.

Now this was proprietary technology that we have developed and actually there is a Harvard business school case study on this that I teach at Harvard business school once a year. And the question is, should we go out to outside clients? Should we use this as a business to offset some of the cost of this because it’s expensive? And every year the students vote that we should not do it and keep it as a proprietary technology. Today it is a $0.5 billion revenue stream and we are going out and brought in outside clients firstly went into people that weren’t our competitors and now we go out and we offer this as a risk tool to a lot of clients. We call it Aladdin and what it does is it tells you what you own and what the risk is. And what’s beautiful about it is we’re pricing millions of securities a day. So we actually have pricing information. So when the financial crisis did hit, we were the first ones to get called because we can go into an institution and the first thing the new CEO, the new CEO would ask is what do we own? That’s a very scary question. So we would model everything and we have most of the securities modeled and he would say what does it worth, which is a second scary question. But we had all these securities modeled because every time we take other client, it makes it more robust for everyone. And then of course the last question is how quickly can you get me out of this? But we have worked with many, many financial institutions so this is a tool that we use, that is also a method of becoming very close with clients, because they are working and using our technology, we understand the business they’re in and it helps them to get returns.

So I think for BlackRock to be able to offer this, is a unique advantage and how we will be able to be talk to people going forward. And technology is the one thing, that if a company does not have in a financial services going forward, it is going to fail, because most technology in the financial services industry is to cut cost and become more efficient. Now, we’re going to have to use that to deliver securities in a way that’s never been done before. Now I know this for a fact because if you wake up in the morning and you have this huge bump on your head, you don’t dial 911 or call your doctor, you’ll Google huge bump on head. So you’re getting your medical advice from the computer. If you buy a book on Amazon, one click and you’ve let them into your bank account. So you tell me why someone’s not going to be walking around with their iPhone and manipulate their portfolio or do a trade or understand the risk? And already today, we could take that Aladdin system that risk profile and we can actually put that on your iPhone so you could see what the risk is all day along in your portfolio. That’s going to be very unique and that’s something that we’re going to use to have a better dialogue with our clients. So technology is just very important.

We have to reinvest in it and I’ll tell you something really interesting about it is that we’re moving from disruptive innovation in technology to destructive innovation. So disruptive innovation would be ETFs disrupted the mutual funds business. But you could say that the iPad or the iPhone destroyed many businesses you don’t see anybody walking around with a Sony walkman anymore do you? Now the iPhone and the Blackberry this is all description and I was just in Hong Kong and I interviewed a guy named Kai-Fu Lee, who was the Head of Microsoft Technology for a while and then moved to Google. And he told me something really interesting which we have to think about and that is that, the new developers in the world, people that are developing the new technologies are starting with high speed Internet and mobile technology. They’re starting their development. We’re going to have to take legacy positions and move them into high speed Internet and mobile technology. So we believe at BlackRock that technology is going to drive the financial services industry in the future and that’s why we’ve invested so much money in it and have a big infrastructure to continue to develop this today using high-speed and using mobile technology.

Unidentified Analyst

Great. And you mentioned this other rotation that’s going on and barbelling that may or may not be happening but it sounds like it is happening with fixed income portfolios. What does that mean for the competitive landscape for fixed income? You’re building this world of core and do you think the competitive set in fixed income is changing?

Robert Kapito

Definitely. Let me give you the example this is great cocktail information. So there are 70,000 global mutual funds 70,000 of them. Last year, 99.7% of all the new flows went to 185 of them. I mean this is frightening for our industry and this is not consolidation, you don’t go out and buy these other people up because you don’t need them. So what it is it’s a winner take all market. So if you have the performance, you can get huge flows of assets if you don’t have the performance, you’re going to see these assets move very quickly and you could plot out your whole investment and lots of different asset management companies and you can see the ones that have one or two products, that it’s just not happening for them. And then the team that’s really good, they’re not just going to stay to pay for the rest of the company and that’s not really good. So you see a lot of teams and you could see a lot of movement, but this is a winner take all market. So it’s really 1% is getting almost a 100% of the flows. So we’re going to see a real changing environment, in fixed income specially. We had five years ago our performance was not something to write home about and we saw lot of assets move, relative to our number one competitor and this year relative to our number one competitor, we have far surpassed them in performance. So I expect to see the exact opposite that money will flow in, to our fixed income products but they’re going to flow in differently because of the yield curve and where rates are, I think the unconstrained, the high yield, the infrastructure type funds all of that are going to get more than just the treasury and mortgage type products.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay. And while we’re formally on question in the audience question on iShares and ETFs there’s been a lot of talk about two things. One, last October your entry into the buy and hold segment market curious what your strategy is behind that? And then related to that, there seems to be I don’t want to call necessarily race to the bottom in terms of fees but obviously Vanguard and fees continue to be the main pressure in the ETF world. So may be help us think about how your…

Robert Kapito

So it seems to me that everybody wants to -- everyone wants to create a price war that’s not happening it’s just not happening. But everybody sounds really good so we’re the leader in the ETF business globally. This is a business because this product works. This is not financial engineering. You have a product that has liquidity that has transparency, that’s priced well, it does all of the things that clients are looking for in diversification. This goes right down the list. This is why it’s successful not because someone came up with some financial engineering structure. So now how do we grow this business going forward? So you have a product lifecycle, there is innovators that come in the market, you capture the flag, you’re known for certain products then it gets more mature and then you innovate again and you try to put on things that make the product even better and better. So we have many products out there, we have a couple of competitors they’re different prices but, it’s so simplistic to just say it’s priced.

So you know what, let’s go ask the clients. So I asked my clients, what they think about the pricing, and they turn to me and go that’s not as important to me as having the liquidity that I want the tracking and the expenses. So they look at all of those things, so you can have a very cheap fee but your tracking error is off you lose it all so it’s miss. Let’s look at the product for what it does. So we went out into the market place and we said, well, wait a second, institutions are looking for one thing and there is a segment of the retail market that’s looking for something else. So we called this the buy and hold segment. So we tested this out and I’ll tell you why it’s sort of funny is that markets gets segmented. So Marko wants to buy Mercedes he walks in and say $250,000 Mercedes sitting right there, he really wants that car he’s looking at it he doesn’t want to spend that kind of money. Salesman comes over and say, what’s the issue you say it’s too much money so he says what you’re going to buy? So I’m going to buy that BMW for $100,000 that’s really great he takes you, puts his arm around you and walks into a different showroom and there is the E-Class. So you just got segmented because this car is still going to sound like $250,000 for those people who want it but you are going to buy the E-Class. Same thing if I ask you to raise your hand, you have different color American Express cards in here you’ve been segmented.

So using that strategy, I thought well let’s take a look at the ETF market is there a segment in there and there is, there is a buy and hold segment. And that segment is the one that is much more a price sensitive than the other segments that want liquidity that want to move in and out, that are more institutional or larger retail. So we went out and we created a core series and we went out and we said okay here’s what the pricing is on that and it was less and we raised a lot of money in that particular segment. And it continues to grow and so we have both, we have the ones that are looking for the liquidity that are less price sensitive and those continue to grow and we have the ones that are, for that segment that’s looking for that. But this is not being commoditized, this is not driving down, you still have to provide the liquidity the tracking and all those things. So I think we’re just at the early stages of people figuring out what the use of this is, instead at just looking at one particular characteristic. And I’ll give you one example.

Client comes to us, believes interest rates are going up has 3,000 line items in corporate bonds. Now you all know what a portfolio is, so when rates go up they’re going to get a bid, you go get a bid on 3,000 line items your whole return is going to go. So we went in and we said tell you what we’ll do. We’ll take almost all of those we took 2,600 of those line items, used it as collateral and gave them back three iShares. Now he has liquidity, he’s not going to lose his bid or for a spread and they can achieve what they want to achieve in the portfolio that’s not been done before. We came up with another idea what about putting a final maturity on an iShare, because a lot of people who buy bonds can own an equity. So what we did is we put a final maturity on it now for accounting purposes you get achievement through the bond, it’s a five year diversified bond portfolio. We manage the credit risk, it rolls down the curve and you get income like anything else but you have the liquidity of the stock exchange. That’s another innovation. So I think it’s more than just price, it’s what you’re getting for it, what the value is, what the return he’s getting. So I’m not seeing the pricing pressure that everybody wants us to see. I think right now people are trying to figure out how to use it and what they can get from it. So we’re not in that stage there will be a stage in some point in time where there is too many of the same thing and then of course, there will be some commoditization just like there is in the equity market and the bond market and other markets. But that hasn’t happened.

Unidentified Analyst

Let’s turn it over to the audience for some Q&A. Questions are up. On the right.

Question-and-Answer Session

Unidentified Analyst

Hi. Can you talk about the supposed rotation from bonds and equities, what you anticipate seeing and how that is different from retail versus institutional investors?

Robert Kapito

Yeah this is a CNBC term the great rotation, for those of you who watch it so because it’s a business and entertainment it seems to me. We don’t see it. We see new money coming in from cash, but we don’t see people selling bonds go into equities. So I don’t know where it’s really coming from. What worries me is that mom-and-pop, may not know when interest rates rise, that the value of their bond portfolio is going to decline dramatically. It’s already happened. So people can be down 20% and 30% and that’s going to scare them again to stay in cash. And this is a big problem because people have not saved enough for retirement and most people buy bonds and if you’re sitting in cash, it’s almost zero the longer you sit there the harder it’s going to be to have that money that you need to retire. On top of that, people have just been told that they are going to live longer. So people have saved to retire at 65 to live to 75, they haven’t saved to live to 85. So they’re going to work longer or they’re going to have to save longer so we coined the phrase, you can’t invest for the future in the future. We have to get those people invested so that they at least get a coupon that will offset some of the negative rise in NAV. So what’s happening today is people are using equities as a replacement for bonds. So dividend paying equities or just equities, that is not a good recipe because they become too correlated. So we have to provide in this changing world when they’re moving from cash better alternatives and bonds that will solve the problems not just running into equities and think that’s the answer. So short answer, I don’t see it longer answer, I think it’s going to be coming out of cash that’s where we’re seeing it now we think that’ going to continue.

Unidentified Analyst

Questions?

Unidentified Analyst

Rob, you rebooted your equity business so to speak recently, lot of changes may be you can take us through what are some of those changes? What the results have been what have you sort of done there?

Robert Kapito

Look we have a full service asset management firm where we can really asset allocate within sectors. You have a plate of products and they’re all in the financial services business or interested and not everything is always going to perform at best. But that’s what our business is performance, everything else can sound good, I can tell you million stories but the only thing that matters is the performance. And we went through a similar period of time where style investing went out and different types of investing went out and I didn’t necessarily have in some of the products that are scalable of the equity area, the performance that I was proud of or promised. So therefore, I had to make changes. And I went out and I scoured the earth here for what I felt was some of the best team in the business they has the best records and I brought them over, because I know that at some period of time people will come out of passive back into active management in a much bigger way and if you have performance winner take all you’ll take that, and that’s what we did. And it’s a little bit painful to do that because people don’t like to have change even though they tell you that they’d like you to change, they don’t want you to change when you actually change. So we brought in the teams and so far, I was just talking to one of our shareholders the new guys come in 450 basis points over the benchmark.

So if we continue that and we have the performance in those particular areas then we’ll see the flows. So sometimes, you have to be realistic when you’re running these firms. It’s about performance if you don’t have the performance, you got to move on you got to get to performance and that’s what we’re going to do. I was cited at one conference, somebody asked me how long will we put up with a manager that’s not performing? So I said, three years. Then the guy said to me that’s too short. I said what do you mean too short, if you had your money invested in there, how long do you want me to wait? So again, you want me to change or you don’t want me to change. I don’t think it’s a matter of time, I think you understand if you’ve been in this business when the performance is good, when it’s not, if there is upside if the process still works or if it’s broken. And what we do on a regular basis, we monitor risk make sure the attribution is coming from the right places and then you got a feel that this team really can produce the results. And if they can’t produce the results, I made a promise to our clients we’re going to move ahead. So we rebooted it, I’m very happy with the teams that we brought. I’m very happy with the performance that was seen from them. Clients are very happy with the performance. So I think this will be another engine that we’re going to have that we didn’t necessarily have in the last two years.

Unidentified Analyst

And when you take a step back and take a look at flows your flows I think one of the criticism is out there that BlackRock is too big to grow in terms of the organic growth? What are some of the areas where you see the opportunity for organic growth and flows?

Robert Kapito

So this is such a fallacy again. I mean come on, we’re -- it’s a big number but half is passive, half is active half is retail, half is institutional we’re less than 1% of the fixed income market. These are huge markets that we’re talking about. It’s just that may be you’re little nervous that it’s under one roof. But can we grow? Yes, but how do you grow? So if you’re just looking at our company as shareholders, and I’m a large shareholder if just looking at it is assets under management, boy that’s a strange way of looking at a company that you’re going to buy. How about the mix of the assets, the revenues that are brought in, the expense control that we have. So can we grow from here? Absolutely, but I want to grow both in terms of revenues and I want to grow both in terms of asset size and I am not afraid. Quite frankly, I just went through our budgeting almost every area of the firm feels that they have an opportunity. But I’m not going to fund all of those opportunities, I have to funnel it down, focus on the client, see where I think the client is going to go and make sure we have the products to face those clients.

So yes we can continue to grow and I’m not a guy that’s running a company that focuses on beta okay? Beta is going to be good, beta’s going to be bad and I’m not going to hire based on beta and I’m not going to fire based on beta. We’re looking to build, we have client bases that we have not even discussed yet, that we haven’t even focused on that can grow. There is a whole RIA market that’s growing that were in the early stages of, the institutions that we reach I mean people don’t even know in the alternatives business. I have over 100 billion of alternatives. This year, we’re the second largest in raising assets and alternatives. People don’t look at us as alternatives managers. Globally in Europe and in Asia, there are clients that we have not even seen yet. So I’m very I just feel very good about the position that we’re in, the performance that we’re in, the products that we’re in. But this is a tough business and we’re going to block and tackle every single day and make sure we’re keeping our promises that’s what we’re going to try to do. But I’m not afraid of the size and it’s not too big.

Unidentified Analyst

If I can just indulge one more here, one of the things that we hear a lot about is may be efficiency particularly or may be around June and talk about tapering. How the fixed income markets acted? What happened in the ETF business? I’m curious if you look at the mom-and-pop investor may be this rotation how the fixed income that could happen what’s your view on one of the Wall Street’s biggest fixed income clients if you will what’s your view on the current state of the market structure and technology today that sort of

Robert Kapito

So June, there was quite a reverberation in the markets and actually I was very pleased as the markets reacted. I was more than pleased that how ETFs reacted because again a lot of the height that people want something to go wrong with it. It actually performs really well and it performed exactly like it should perform. So that was actually a good test. As far as the tapering goes, again this is just a term that I’m sick of hearing it already. But the fed has done a really good job of getting us where we are today. Let’s not forget the crisis that we were in. the fed has done a pretty good job. Do you think that someone is just going to announce tomorrow that they are going to stop buying and they don’t understand what the ramifications could be in the market? I don’t think so. I think it’s going to be telegraphed well. I think it’s going to be handled well and already you’ve seen that the market reacting a bit already in the long end of the fixed income curve.

So there is an expectation that we’re getting to the point where we watch where unemployment is that less buying will be necessary. I think in a very orderly fashion a lot of this money will come out. I hear a lot of institutional clients talking about LBI about taking their assets and actually locking it in and they would like rates to be a little bit higher and exactly where that’s going to be. But I think that’s going to happen, that’s going to cause a buyer in the marketplace. So I think this is going to work in a very, very orderly fashion I’m very optimistic. So at BlackRock, we have an investment institute. We’ve got 100 of our top investors together and we talk exhaustibly about the markets and our term is going to be low for longer and that means that short rates are going to stay lower for longer because growth is about 2.5% GDP and we think that’s going to continue. We’re not seeing the equity market react to revenues as much as it’s reacting to price and price momentum.

So right now we’re focused on infrastructure, alternatives, real assets like real-estate and the ETF market representing different areas that you want to invest in, yield curves still steep getting a little bit steeper and having a year that may you all find a little bit boring. But boring is good. So we can have people coming out of cash, feeling more confident and new in the environment having stocks at the PE level that are there and based upon revenues and growth we’ll do better than companies have done a lot of streamlining. So that there is that growth that revenues will come right down to the bottom line. So we’re seeing a good picture that’s not that exciting but a good picture where investors can earn a very good return on their money and that’s what we’re really, really focused on. So I want to leave with more of an optimistic tune and I want to think our goal at BlackRock is to leave the market, be a good fiduciaries and make sure that our clients understand what the risks and returns are of sitting in cash, getting them invested in the right investments and then growing them in the future. And that’s the best plan that we have and we appreciate all the help that we get from all of our partners.

Unidentified Analyst

Great. We’ll stop there. Thank you very much, Rob.

Robert Kapito

Thank you.

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