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Vault’s Verdict


Robust culture

The firm "prides itself on having a strong culture," which may be a holdover from "its smaller days as a mom-and-pop shop." The firm also has "very intelligent," "talented" people. All in all, BlackRock is a "results-driven, hardworking firm with an unwavering focus on details," says an insider. Still, it is a "relatively new firm by Wall Street standards," notes another, "and the firm is quickly growing in all respects: from clients to new employees. The people at the firm are among some of the best in their field and many leave the big houses to come work at the firm." Indeed, "as an asset manager, BlackRock hires the best." Youth is the dominant factor in BlackRock's culture. "The overwhelming aspect of the BlackRock culture is how young the firm is," says a source. "The average age of a BlackRock employee is 33. That speaks volumes for the level of movement within the firm for new analysts. Many of the portfolio managers began their careers at BlackRock right out of college." According to that source, all that youth has a tangible effect. "Having such a young team of professionals maintains a culture of meritocracy," says that investment manager. "Everyone is accessible to everyone, else and questions can be asked of whomever."

But while "the firm is quickly growing in all respects, from clients to new employees," which promotes a "great learning environment," "times can get tough if you aren't able to keep up with the pace of work and knowledge." "The culture here is also vibrant and intense," one source agrees. "The portfolio managers are very interactive, so analysts are always faced with the challenge of keeping up with senior managers." The youth theme continues. "BlackRock is a very young firm," says an insider. "It is a meritocracy and the rigid corporate structure that one generally associates with a finance firm rarely applies for BlackRock." Another says, "Times can get tough if you aren't able to keep up with the pace of work and knowledge. Many people opt to leave after two years and move into a more suitable culture, but take with them the great experience." Another insider calls BlackRock a "meritocracy where hard work and innovation is rewarded."

The firm's recent founding shapes the culture. "The company is only 15 years old and has grown tremendously," notes a source. "Although the growth has made the culture change, the company fiercely hangs on to the nice environment it had when it was first created. It is a fast-paced, challenging environment with a strong caring feeling." BlackRock tries to keep even its junior employees connected to senior management. "Although BlackRock is no longer considered a small firm, it still maintains its flat management structure and lack of bureaucracy that was evident from its genesis in 1988," says a source. "Senior management is approachable and though employees of BlackRock work hard, they play hard too. In fact, during the quarterly meetings given by CEO Larry Fink, a reminder is made to all employees to take their vacation time - a rare occurrence in other large financial firms."

Ponying up the respect

Employees are "treated with a great deal of respect," contacts say. Indeed, the firm prides itself on a culture "focused on excellence, teamwork and integrity." "BlackRock's strongest asset is its culture of teamwork and excellence," brags an insider, who admits his praise "sounds like a tag line, but it makes a huge difference in satisfaction level and ability to tackle complex tasks. It is also small enough that most departments, if not most individuals, are well known to all and cooperation is greatly facilitated because of this." Teamwork abounds. "The culture is very team-oriented," says a contact. "I leverage the advice of vice presidents and managing directors to complete my assignments, and these inquiries are highly encouraged. All professionals are very open to share their knowledge with you. In addition, they are intelligent and well rounded. Although the firm now has close to 1,000 professionals, the firm remains relatively fluid."

Not too political

There's "relatively few politics to deal with for a firm this size," one insider says. "I get along very well with my direct supervisors," adds a junior staffer. "They have high expectations, but I also find them to be very understanding people. As long as you make an effort to communicate with your manager, there shouldn't be any problems." That view is common but by no means universal. "However, this is from my personal experience," continues that youngster. "I've heard from co-workers who would totally disagree with my testimony." Another contact does substantiate that view, saying that BlackRock is "a very flat organization. If you want to talk to someone, walk into their office. If someone who you do not know calls you, look up their picture on the Web, and introduce yourself next time you run into them." One insider says that "analysts and managing directors work closely together, along with everyone in between." Another adds that "I've never been unfairly criticized or badly treated."

There is at least one complaint. "While the relatively flat structure at BlackRock is great, there are, especially in my department, some 'lifers' who are managers not because they are effective managers of people but because they stayed long enough to continue to be promoted," gripes a source. "There is no internal training for managers on how to effectively work with subordinates, and I think it's a significant deficit."

Feel the pinch

As far as the workload goes, "unlike larger firms, as soon as someone leaves BlackRock, everyone feels it." While "HR tries to fill the vacant slot," it can still be "months, even years, before that position is ever filled." Of course, your workload also depends on the department in which you work. "Some departments work longer hours than others - however, a 12-hour day is very typical for all employees of BlackRock," admits one insider. "The hours are "harsh," says one respondent, who ultimately quit "because I was exhausted." Another insider says the hours are "normal for New York" with a "start time of between 8 and 9 a.m." and a leaving time of "between 6 and 8 p.m. most nights." "Don't expect an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job. This is not that kind of place." Instead, "expect to work 14 to16 hours a day, in which at least 10 hours are nonstop, high-stress labor," says a source.


Some of the hard work is a function of the firm's go-get'em culture. "Although not asked or looked upon to put in extra hours or work on weekends, those feeling an obligation to the job and ownership of accounts and projects can find themselves putting in more hours than would be expected," observes a contact. "We stay as long as it takes to complete tasks, and it does not go unnoticed," says another. "Staying late is not a function of catering to the whims of bosses, it is a function of superior client service and responsiveness." One respondent says that "analysts come in at 6:30 a.m. and don't leave until 9 p.m." Hours can get better as staffers become more efficient. "During my first year, my work demanded a lot of time in the office," says one BlackRocker with a few years under her belt. "I used to work 12 to 14 hours regularly. But after working for almost three years at the firm, I am able to finish by 6 or 7 p.m. every day." Another notes that "Sundays are mandatory for [the] first six months, but most people came both days."

There seems to be some dispute over the existence of face time. "I feel that we're expected to be at work for more time than is necessary," gripes one source. "I feel that even if we work quickly and effectively during the day and choose to leave at a normal hour (6:30 p.m. or so), it's looked down upon. Therefore, some people just stay for the face time but really aren't getting anything substantial done during the day." Others have a different view. "Face time is not important in my group, and not a significant factor in other groups," says one sales contact. "If I finish my work for the day, I am free to go." Another insider says that BlackRock is "not a face time institution, but given the amount of demand, there is much to be done." The firm isn't trying to fool anyone about how much time you'll spend at your desk. "In the recruiting process, hours are always reflected honestly," says one source. And while long hours may be common, says one source, there are few outward grievances. Although "10- to 12-hour workdays are common, but few people ever complain," says another. "We like working here."

Not cheapskates

First and foremost, when it comes to money, "the company is not absolutely focused on expense reduction." This is good news when it comes to compensation. Insiders give BlackRock's salaries high scores - and some say that they are pulling in Wall Street pay. "Analysts start at the industry standard, which is about $55,000 these days, and should expect a 30 to 50 percent bonus," reports an insider. "While base salary is more standardized with respect to years and title, the bonus definitely varies by performance." There are other factors that determine bonus. "It depends on the department you are in and the workload," says a source. "People in departments that work the longest hours are typically compensated for that." Big bonuses offset lower base salaries (at some levels) and small raises. "Salary increases at the firm are small and disappointing," complains a contact. "However, the yearly bonus is usually generous as compared to other companies."

Another source agrees. "Employees at BlackRock generally receive a very good bonus comparable to other firms," says one BlackRock insider. "But one can look at that as an offset for the average to below-average base salary relative to the industry. Employees at this firm rely heavily on the year-end bonus."

Cash isn't the only incentive at BlackRock. "The moment you join BlackRock, you are able to make direct deposits from your paycheck into a number of mutual funds that the firm manages," says a source. "After six months, you can open a 401(k), and after a year of employment, you become eligible for the employee stock purchase program." The firm also offers a special deal for health nuts: a "100 percent pre-tax gym reimbursement at [New York-area health clubs] if you workout more than 75 times a year."


Yours for the taking

Although "training and education assistance are available" within the firm, comments one source, "you are also expected to learn on your own." Others say BlackRock gives its staffers everything they need to succeed. "The training is superb," raves one insider. "Besides the comprehensive nature of the initial training period, BlackRock supports continuing learning in the workplace. There are seminars, classes and workshops sponsored by the firm, covering numerous topics and always open to all who wish to attend." The commitment to training stems from the firm's need to breed high-performing portfolio management stars. "BlackRock prides itself on internally grown talent," observes a contact. "All founding members are still at the firm, and senior managers embrace the idea of constant training. Senior portfolio managers and other employees frequently make time to answer questions from even the most junior analysts." One source says, "New analysts attend a two-week training program at the beginning of their tenure. Afterwards, they have one week of training in their specific group. The training is comprehensive, but serves as mostly an overview of the different functions of the firm."

The view from the inside

As of late, there have been few complaints regarding office accommodations - in fact, sources tend to rate them quite highly. BlackRock's New York staffers recently relocated "so the dor and space is very new and adequate." Respondents there rave about the "new building, new furniture [and] flat screens for a couple of departments." One says, "The office building is nice, and everyone has their own personal space." Another source is more critical, saying "drab colors and cubes make it less than aesthetically pleasing," but he appreciates that "it is always clean."

BlackRock's dress code is "business casual," "although some departments are more relaxed than others," insiders say. Sloppy or inappropriate attire is also out. "If you work on the trading floor or interact with clients, the dress code is expected to be more along the lines of 'business' than 'casual,'" one contact adds. Another source observes that though it is "not quite a suit-and-tie firm, BlackRock does require employees to dress in a professional manner."


Being proactive doesn't hurt

Diversity "recruiting and retention" could be vastly improved, insiders say. "Rather than taking the proactive approach and seek qualified, diverse candidates, BlackRock is sitting back, without a care in the world, until something - such as losing a prospective client - faces itself because of the lack of diversity," says one contact. "Then, and only then, will BlackRock make a solid effort to hire minorities - including women." "Most client teams are overwhelmingly male," agrees another. Still another adds that "ethnicity is not a barrier per se, but fitting into the culture is a must, and it tends towards a mainstream white culture, like most U.S. financial institutions."

Many feel the firm lacks diversity in the management ranks. "It is very noticeable that there are very few females in managerial positions," says a source. "Moreover, most of the females in the company are either in client service teams or hold administrative positions. It is very difficult to find female role models in portfolio management or technical positions." That statement is balanced by the fact that "there are three women on the firm's management committee." BlackRock "takes strides to achieve female diversity, but [it] remains mostly male," says a source, adding, "I think the firm may have to take an even more active role to improve the male/female ratio." Another comments that "for the developers, the split is about a 40-60 ratio of women to men."

When it comes to minority recruiting and retention, the area seems to be improving but needs work, too. "Most existing employees are white," but "the firm's recognition of a very nondiversified workforce is shown by a much more diverse incoming analyst class." Another insider says, "I've noticed that the firm is actively improving in this area, but the lack of diversity with respect to minorities is blatant across the firm in all departments." Yet another believes the firm's racial and ethnic diversity is "pretty good, except for the top management committee."


55 East 52nd Street
New York, NY 10055
Phone: (212) 810-5300

Firm Stats

Employer Type: Public
Stock Symbol: BLK
Stock Exchange: NYSE
Chairman and CEO: Laurence D. Fink

Major Office Locations

Atlanta, GA
Bloomfield Hills, MI
Boca Raton, FL
Boston, MA
Charlotte, NC
New York, NY

Major Departments & Practices

Analytics and Risk
Business Management and Strategy
Business Operations
Finance & Internal Audit
Human Resources