BlackRock HR chief to leave after he ‘failed to adhere’ to policy

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BlackRock’s head of human resources has left the fund manager after he “failed to adhere to company policy”, the company announced on Wednesday. The $6.8tn fund giant announced the sudden departure of Jeff Smith, head of human resources, in a strongly worded memo to employees seen by the Financial Times. The details of the behaviour that led to the exit are unclear but will have no financial impact on the company or its clients, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

BlackRock declined to comment. “We expect every employee of BlackRock, especially our most senior leaders, to uphold the highest standards of conduct,” Larry Fink, chief executive, and Rob Kapito, president, said in the memo. Mr Smith joined BlackRock through its 2009 acquisition of Barclays Global Investors that included the iShares exchange traded fund business. He previously worked for Time Warner.

Mr Smith could not be immediately reached for comment. He was a member of BlackRock’s global executive committee and global operating committee. Mr Smith attained a PhD in industrial-organisational psychology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1997 and has a degree in psychology from the University of Connecticut. During his time at Time Warner, he was vice-president of people development.

BlackRock has appointed Rob Fairbairn, its vice-chairman, as interim head of human resources while it searches for a permanent replacement. “Rob has led some of the firm’s largest businesses — including our then-combined retail and iShares business, our global client business, and our international business,” Mr Fink and Mr Kapito said in the memo. “Rob will work with the HR team to ensure a smooth transition of responsibilities.”

BlackRock is the world’s largest fund manager and has grown dramatically since buying BGI. The fund manager has benefited from the surge in investor appetite for exchange traded funds, the low cost portfolios, that have helped propel the group’s overall assets to nearly $7tn today from $1.3tn prior to the BGI deal.

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