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Opto Sessions

BlackRock’s Carolyn Weinberg on the democratising power of ETFs

Carolyn Weinberg, the global head of product for iShares and index investments at BlackRock, joined the Opto Sessions podcast for a conversation about some of the firm’s most innovative products, including floating rate and interest rate hedge to fixed income ETFs. She suggested ways to use these in your portfolio and spoke about why now is a very interesting time for fixed income.

LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW:

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Carolyn Weinberg may have studied math at Harvard, where she graduated with great distinction, but there’s no doubt she’s a people person. In a recent interview with Opto Sessions, she broke down the complex structures of funds she oversees at BlackRock, the world’s largest ETF provider, making them sound easy, approachable and even fun.

Weinberg plays core role in helping the asset manager achieve its mission, which in her words is “to help millions experience financial wellbeing” — something she sees as being an overdue “democratisation of financial markets”.

Barron’s has acknowledged Weinberg’s tremendous contribution to this effort by naming her one of the 100 Most Influential Women in US Finance. In its web site listing, she appears alphabetically between familiar names such as US Senator Elizabeth Warren and ARK Invest’s Cathie Wood.

But all of that influence had to come from somewhere. Weinberg highlights that her mother was a statistics professor, which may well have influenced her early academic focus on numbers. Later on, she “always had fabulous bosses and amazing experiences working with people”.

Building better with ETFs

As the global head of product for iShares and index investments at BlackRock, Weinberg oversees the commercialisation and development of innovative products globally. She leads a global team of 160 people responsible for this work, which also work in building new product lines, forging strategic partnerships and conducting research in support of iShares growth priorities, like fixed income and sustainability.

“We often start with this question of: ‘how can we help our clients build better portfolios?’,” Weinberg says, adding that she thinks about ETF innovation in three ways: expanding exposure, new product categories and structural innovation.

Before joining Blackrock in 2018, Weinberg developed structured derivative solutions for corporations at Citibank, where she was the head of the North America corporate solutions group.

“We thought about how we could help corporate clients hedge their various risks around the world, from the perspective of currency risk, or interest rate risk, or other kinds of financing risks, if you will, and using derivatives to do so.”

On the surface, her work on ETFs and indices at BlackRock looks quite different. “In reality,” she says, “there's a lot of similarity where it's really [about] thinking globally, and how do we help our clients build better portfolios?”

“We often start with this question of: ‘how can we help our clients build better portfolios?” - Carolyn Weinberg

Buckets of offerings

BlackRock currently offers more than 1,300 ETFs across four continents. Weinberg categorises their offerings into “three different buckets”: equities, fixed income and commodities.

Recently, she’s noticed a growing interest in fixed income products like Treasuries. Back in 2014, the firm was considering the inevitability of the eventual rise in interest rates. At the time, she figured, “having a floating rate Treasury product in our suite would be important. With rates low for so long, though, in fairness, not that many people were excited about our floating rate Treasury products. However, this year, they actually are very important and really critical to the portfolio. And we're really glad we've had it in the suite.”

“We thought about how we could help corporate clients hedge their various risks around the world” - Carolyn Weinberg

For this product alone, BlackRock has seen over $3bn of inflows this year. “If you think about it from this suite extension perspective, having a floating rate Treasury made a lot of sense. But sometimes it takes time, and we built it for the future.”

For more ways to listen:

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Listen to the full interview and explore our past episodes on Opto Sessions. You can also check out all our episodes via our YouTube Channel.

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