With humankind facing a number of inter-related challenges, and imminent tipping points after which it may be too late to avoid catastrophe, have we reached an inflection point in relation to an organisation’s strategy for maximising impact and achieving responsible and sustainable bottomline growth? Only you can decide; but for me, it’s not too late. Our best days are yet to come. As individuals and as organisations we can meet this moment.
One proof point is BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with more than $9-trillion assets under management. If a small, grassroots activist waves a flag of protest on a topic, we might not notice it. But if the titans of finance say something, we might just take notice. BlackRock is one such titan to note.
Let’s look at the challenges of our times through the eyes of Zach Buchwald, Managing Director and Head of BlackRock’s Institutional Business for the US and Canada. Buchwald serves on BlackRock’s Global Operating Committee, the US/ Canada Executive Committee and as a sponsor of its LGBT employee network. He serves as Chair of the US/ Canada Institutional Client Executive Committee.
When Buchwald and I sat down for The Caring Economy last June, of particular interest to me were some of his and the firm’s practice areas, including retirement planning, DEI and harnessing social media.
Buchwald spoke at length about retirements and pensions and a looming crisis: “What’s happening in America and around the world is in fact a crisis,” he warned. The days of generous company managed pensions have gone away. “In the last generation, those pensions slowly converted typically into 401K’s … and put the burden of managing one’s retirement on the individual… Most people are not really qualified to manage their own assets.”
And they’re living longer. Buchwald summarises: “What’s going on, and it is epidemic, across this country and across the world, people are retiring without their resources and skills to manage themselves through to the end of their lives…
BlackRock is in a position that manages many of those retirement assets and can have a positive impact on the system by creating a better model that includes better income and the longevity risk is taken away from people. We work with companies to evolve existing 401K models to evolve the model to address shortcomings.”
On Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE) – Buchwald also comments on the advantages of embracing DEI: “Since I arrived, we have talked a lot about DEI at BlackRock …and we’re in a much stronger place today … The clients that we serve, retirees who are teachers, firefighters, police people, municipal workers – are very diverse. I love going to their meetings where we see our diverse teams and we see their diverse populations… It’s very compelling.”
He concludes; “There’s lots of science out there that says diverse populations make better long-term decisions. That’s absolutely true in the investment space as well. Better investment outcomes come from diverse teams.”
On embracing social media to help leaders and their organisations — Buchwald has grown more comfortable with social media as he rose in his career. “I’ve only been active on LinkedIn the past year and part of the reason is to create greater representation about LGBTQ leadership… I’ve been inspired with all the changes we’ve been through to be more active and be more visible… The world is changing in a positive way … and being out and being visible is one way I can help a bit.”
BlackRock exemplifies how purpose and profit can work well together. Their approach to responsible business presents a best-in-class embrace of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG). From taking a strong position on sustainability, transparency, DEI and community engagement, the BlackRock team leads by example.
Zach Buchwald has contributed mightily to his firm’s success. Readers and listeners who follow Buchwald and other leaders profiled on The Caring Economy each week will find useful and inspiring information on reconciling personal and professional purpose with profit.
We look forward to helping catalyse responsible business practices in the New India’s vibrant young populace.