Manhattan Jamatkhana and IPN Alliances recently hosted Salim Ramji, a senior leader from the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, for an intimate conversation on October 15, 2023.
The Federal Reserve has been raising rates at its fastest pace in four decades. Short-term U.S. Treasuries are now above 5%, the highest yields since 2007. Given this shift, wealth management firms are rebalancing investment portfolios between bonds and equity, as bonds can once again act as a hedge to the broader equity markets.
Savings is a fundamental issue in economics, both in developed and developing nations. Simply, savings is the difference between income and the consumption of a particular household. Investing accumulated household savings in an appropriately diversified manner using tools such as exchange-traded funds (ETFs) has several benefits, including long-term financial security.
Leading the conversation against this backdrop was Salim Ramji, the Global Head of iShares and Index Investments at BlackRock, an institution that manages nearly $10 trillion in assets around the world. Salim, a member of BlackRock’s Global Executive Committee, has been a leader at BlackRock since joining in 2014 after serving as a Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company, where he led the Asset & Wealth Management practice areas.
The Q&A-style conversation, moderated by Gulzar Aziz, Vice President at Mastercard and a member of the New York Jamat, revealed Salim’s multi-faceted personality while exploring a variety of contemporary topics such as the continued evolution of fixed income ETFs; the role of active versus index investing; career advancement and balancing family; the importance of physical and mental health; and evolving market trends such as ESG initiatives.
“There is a revolutionary change going on in the world of investments,” said Salim. “The same democratization that came to equities in years past is making its way to the bond market, and that means much more transparency, customization, and access for hundreds of millions of investors in the years to come.”
On achieving personal gratification in his role in finance, Salim remarked, “The rate of change of how people invest around the world is high. I’ve seen how the financial services industry has transformed in Pakistan since starting my career there in microfinance.”
Salim expanded on the theme of investing strategies, saying:
“Now you see countries like Germany with a culture for investing, were traditionally not channeling those savings into bonds or equities. We’re seeing these shifts globally, and we (Blackrock) are able to play a big role in serving those needs and providing the choice and access that accelerates these shifts. We’ve unlocked the opportunity for people to start investing with as little as a dollar or a Euro and have a tremendous set of offerings as they continue to grow their wealth and seek out sophistication and choice in their portfolios.”
On the topic of mentorship, Salim expressed his deep appreciation for the strong ties he’s developed with colleagues throughout his career. “I’ve been lucky to have some great mentors over the years. I specifically look for people who can give me constructive criticism. To this day, these mentors will reach out with feedback on talks I give, whether pushing me on the clarity of my thoughts or even reminding me to cut down the ‘ums’.”
In response to an audience question regarding mental health, Salim shared his experience leading the mental health task force at BlackRock, an organization that employs nearly 20,000 across the globe. “We all talk a lot about the stigma. We’ve made a lot of progress internally, but until the day when you can talk about going to a therapist the same way you’d talk about going to the doctor to get your knee checked out, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to see through that progress.”
Above all, Salim’s thoughtfulness and candidness were clearly evident throughout the 60-minute conversation. The New York Jamat is home to many senior leaders in the financial services industry, many of whom were present at the talk.
This event, hopefully the first of a series, will bring people together with similar backgrounds to socialize, learn, and network amongst our community. Manhattan Jamatkhana and IPN Alliances look forward to hosting speaker series events in other industries, such as Healthcare, Real Estate, Technology, Education, and Philanthropy, to further promote learning within the Ismaili and local communities.