(Bloomberg) -- BlackRock named Salim Ramji head of its U.S. wealth advisory business, succeeding Frank Porcelli, as the world’s biggest asset manager pushes to attract more retail clients.
Porcelli, who asked to step back from managing after 11 years in the position, will become the unit’s chairman and focus on developing offerings such as FutureAdvisor, the digital wealth management firm BlackRock agreed to purchase last month, according to a memo provided by the New York-based company. Ramji will be replaced as global head of corporate strategy by Geraldine Buckingham.
BlackRock CEO Laurence D. Fink has been building out the firm’s retail business and integrating units to lure more money from individual investors. The firm managed $561 billion in retail assets in the second quarter, up from $535 billion a year earlier. The U.S. wealth advisory business, which had its roots in the investment management operation of Merrill Lynch that BlackRock acquired in 2006, has grown to $980 billion under Porcelli.
"Three years and four years ago we started talking about building a stronger brand in retail," Fink said during the firm’s second-quarter earnings call. "Two years ago, we integrated our retail and our iShares teams to offer more outcome-oriented solutions instead of just product pushing. And I think this has all created a more elevated position with our distribution platform. And I believe we have much more to go."
BlackRock is following other asset managers, including Fidelity Investments and Vanguard Group, in embracing so-called robo firms that use algorithms to create portfolios based on questions investors answer online. Robos such as Wealthfront and Betterment have attracted billions of dollars in capital as millennials flock to the platforms. BlackRock bought FutureAdvisor, a robo firm, to help financial firms it partners with expand their investment advisory practices.
BlackRock’s wealth advisory business distributes the firm’s mutual funds, iShares exchange-traded funds, separate accounts and other products through financial advisers and direct platforms.
Last year, BlackRock hired Ramji, who was a senior partner at McKinsey, to lead its corporate strategy. He and Porcelli will report to Rob Fairbairn, the global head of retail and iShares.