1. Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in New York on Long Island. I lived in Commack, New York with my mom Trudy, dad, Joel and two older sisters, Dawn and Michele. My Dad was a high school teacher in Queens. My father taught me to work hard and be humble. My mom was an amazing mom – she made sure to be there for us and that we knew we were loved. My sisters taught me a lot about soap operas. My favorite was General Hospital. With two older sisters there was never a quiet day or a dull moment. As a fifth generation New Yorker I’ve come to notice there are some differences between New York and Atlanta but to be honest there are a lot more similarities. The only thing I have to say is “Let’s Go Mets”!
2. How long have you been in Atlanta?
I remember visiting our Atlanta office in 2019. It was great. Everyone was working together toward the same mission: to build out a great office where we can continue the strong culture of BlackRock. I fell in love with the people and the city, and I knew I wanted to be part of it. I brought my wife Heather and twin sons, Jacob, and Sam to visit and they fell in love too. The welcoming people, warmer weather, and amazing culture helped them make the decision to move down to Atlanta. The ‘Southern Hospitality’ was the icing on the cake. We moved down together in June of 2020.
3. Has Atlanta lived up to your expectations?
YES, YES, YES. My family is doing great. Our neighbors in East Cobb are so welcoming. We have found some great restaurants and have fallen in love with the culture in Atlanta. My sons are doing well in Walton High School, and we’ve all made some great new friends.
4. How did you come to work for BlackRock?
When I decided to come back to New York after college and finished a couple of internships in Washington DC, I wanted to work in finance with hard working, smart people. In April 1998, I was interviewing on Park Avenue. That day, I had interviews with Lehman Brothers, Chase, and Bear Sterns. In between the interviews I had a 90-minute break. Someone mentioned to me that if I had some time, I should walk into 345 Park Avenue and check out this small boutique asset manager company called BlackRock. So, I took the elevator up to the 29th floor. As I walked in, I bumped into Charlie Hallac, BlackRock’s first employee and later Co-President of the firm. Charlie was amazing. He sat me next to an Analyst and told me to watch what they do there. BlackRock was a well-oiled machine, everyone working together, and everyone was a teacher and a student. I thought it was great, but I had to leave for my next scheduled interview. I told Charlie I had another appointment and had to go. Charlie then said the words that I will never forget, “Do you want this or not?”. The following Monday, I started my career at BlackRock. It’s been an amazing journey.
5. It has been said that to really understand BlackRock that you need to understand the Aladdin platform. You are the Head of the Aladdin Business for the BlackRock Atlanta Innovation Hub. Can you tell us what makes Aladdin so special?
Our mission at BlackRock is to help more and more people experience financial well-being. Aladdin is key to how we do this. Aladdin has evolved from primarily risk management system into a comprehensive platform that makes the process of investment management much more efficient. As a result, our clients have the ability to scale their businesses and wealth managers can access risk management capabilities once only the domain of large institutional investors. It’s been amazing to watch how Aladdin can be a catalyst for good.
6. Have you been able to build the team that you hoped to build here in Atlanta?
I am excited by the team we’ve built and we’re just getting started. We made it a priority from day 1 to embed ourselves in the local community, and I am proud of the partnerships we have with the city of Atlanta and the local universities. These partnerships connect us with our amazing Atlanta neighbors who are some of the most skilled professionals I have met in my career.
7. Could you talk a little about your business leadership style and how you prefer to engage with and motivate your team?
My mom has always told me that she gave me two ears and one mouth so I could listen twice as much as I speak. It is a good lesson. Our people are our most precious assets. I have had the privilege and honor to work with some of the brightest people in the world. BlackRock is lucky to have such great employees and clients and I have dedicated the last 24 years working with them. The culture in the Atlanta iHub surrounds itself with community, connectivity, and collaboration. Surrounding myself with such talent only makes me stronger as a leader.
8. Are there any broad trends that you see for technology to play an even larger role in asset management and investing?
Data, Data, Data. Asset managers increasingly need to differentiate. There is no longer a “one size fits all” way of doing things. Platforms like Aladdin need to support a multitude of operating models as asset managers start to differentiate. Additionally, there is an explosion in the number of employees with coding skills, both within BlackRock and within many of our clients’ organizations. Citizen Developers can be engineers, but many more of them are traders, portfolio managers, compliance officers, and operations professionals. They know how to write code, but coding isn’t their full-time job. To meet this need, BlackRock is focused on providing managers with technology that supports flexibility, optionality, and interoperability. We are “opening Aladdin” to provide clients with the ability to interact with more easily and build on top of Aladdin technology. Expanding Aladdin’s platform capabilities allows for greater innovation and connectivity by expanding the universe of partners who increasingly view Aladdin to get closer to their clients. We are creating deep integrations with ecosystem partners, such as custodial banks and fund accountants, who can work with clients directly in their Aladdin environments to provide a more seamless end-to-end experience.
9. Could you tell us a little about BlackRock’s engagement with Atlanta and also about your personal engagement with the Atlanta community?
We opened the doors to the Atlanta iHub in 2019 with a strategic intent to bring together the “best of BlackRock” with what it means to be “local in Atlanta”.
Each member of the BlackRock Atlanta Leadership Team are strongly encouraged by leadership to become active in the local community, and I have taken personal pride in getting more involved. The last few years have been unprecedented as we have seen sickness, death, political, and social unrest. I have also seen amazing things. In the early days of the pandemic, I remember that every day at 5pm, when the hospitals were changing shifts, everyone would stop and thank the front-line workers. I was proud to see how both New York and Atlanta lead the way in civil rights, and ‘BLM’ marches. In Georgia, with support from many corporations like BlackRock, we passed the ‘Hate Crimes’ bill. I am happy to sit on many boards in Atlanta; one that means a great deal to me is the Anti-Defamation League which is doing great work to fight hate.
I have learned a lot in my first 18 months in Atlanta. I look forward to working and celebrating many more wins with the BlackRock Atlanta iHub and our great partners.