- BlackRock has ramped up its online presence to blast out its message to younger investors.
- Rich Latour, the firm’s global head of content and media, spoke with Insider about his strategy.
- Banks and asset managers are going all out to burnish their images through content-marketing.
On Twitter, BlackRock’s feed looks much like those of other investment firms, sharing conversational posts about investing and announcements to its 520,000 followers. But a recent tweet drew more responses than usual.
“We are not one of the institutional investors buying single-family homes,” the firm said on May 10, referencing reports and a viral tweet last year that ignited a firestorm among right-wing commentators and positioned BlackRock as the villainous institutional buyer of your next-door neighbor’s house.
“A number of other large asset managers and private equity firms are very active today in purchasing single-family residences. BlackRock is sometimes confused with them,” the firm said in a post, adding that it invests in multi-family properties and apartment complexes .
Without mentioning competitors’ names, the asset management firm was effectively reminding people that it is not Blackstone, the major real estate investor and private equity giant. (The firms have a long history together, though: Fink arrived at the name BlackRock in the 1980s with the blessing of Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, whose firm provided Fink early capital to launch).
A year ago, BlackRock “would not have even contemplated responding on social media” to a viral moment like that, Rich Latour, the asset manager’s global head of content and media, said in a recent interview with Insider. “But now we’re just trying to get organized for those instances when the stories are significant enough and wrong enough that it warrants us sort of correcting the record — at least on social,” he said.
BlackRock’s growing presence on social media is a sign of the times. Banks and asset managers are growing more aggressive in their content-marketing and media strategies as a way to cut through an onslaught of information, and headlines firms don’t like, to reach investors directly. And they’re hiring former news writers to help them do it.
Latour joined three years ago from Goldman Sachs, where he worked on the firm’s digital content and media. Before Goldman, Latour was a longtime journalist at NBC News and CNBC, working as a producer for nearly two decades.
“When I was at NBC News, my job didn’t exist,” Latour said. “Companies weren’t really hiring heads of content. They had strategy, social media, but it’s sort of matured the past few years, where it’s like — every company wants to be its own media company. Every company wants to have control over its own messaging and its own storytelling.”
BlackRock and TikTok
Latour’s team, under BlackRock’s marketing umbrella, is made up of six people who pitch ideas for videos and posts, write scripts, and handle production in coordination with communications, legal, and other teams. Latour reports to two interim co-heads of marketing; the former chief marketing officer, Frank Cooper, left for Visa earlier this year.
BlackRock’s posts across TikTok, LinkedIn, and Twitter share the same end goal as other Wall Street firms: to sell stuff. But the forces shaping how it markets itself is, in some ways, distinct from those of its competitors.
BlackRock is the largest money manager in the world, overseeing nearly $10 trillion on behalf of clients, with unrivaled size through funds it manages and the shareholder megaphone it wields in other companies’ boardrooms.
Its celebrity chief executive, Larry Fink, is far more visible than his counterparts at major asset management rivals Fidelity and Vanguard, which are also both privately held with less information provided to the public. Fink’s drawn sustainable investing and stakeholder capitalism comments, which he has clarified as “not woke up,” have heightened criticism from both Democrats and Republican lawmakers over its policies in recent years.
“BlackRock is a very complicated place,” Latour said. “We’ve certainly done research, and we know that there’s a perception that a lot is going on in BlackRock that people don’t necessarily understand.”
It has taken to TikTok to reach new generations of investors. And it doesn’t hurt that its videos on the platform, where conspiracy theories spread like wildfire, can counter users conflating informed criticism of the company with inaccurate information about what it does.
In a video there posted in March about BlackRock’s vast influence that has now been viewed 6.4 million times, menacing music plays while a man looks into the camera and says: “This is about to become unhinged and terrifying, so buckle up.” The caption: “The one company that controls your life, and the government.” It is true that funds run by BlackRock are among the most significant owners of shares in many S&P 500 companies and that the firm has former executives in powerful posts in the Biden administration. Ultimately though, those shares are owned by BlackRock’s clients. (It is not true that BlackRock controls your life and the government.)
BlackRock’s videos are generally aimed at starter investors. In its most-watched video, a BlackRock employee talks about how to spend a first paycheck. Latour said his team isn’t working with influencers, but they may in the future. A delegate budget declined to disclose the team’s but said “our senior stakeholders have given the team license to experiment on platforms like TikTok,” and that social media is a priority for the firm.
“We’re really sort of leaning into creating content that is designed to reach the next generation of investors who definitely have different relationships and attitudes and behaviors when it comes to money and spending and investing than previous generations did,” Latour said.