Three years ago, Mark Wiseman left his powerful perch atop the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for a high level job at BlackRock Inc., a surprise move that put the then-45-year-old in contention to potentially one day run the world’s largest asset manager.
On Thursday, any such hopes were cut short when BlackRock abruptly announced Wiseman was leaving after violating the company’s “relationship at work” policy.
The departure marks a dramatic turn of events for Wiseman, a wunderkind of the Canadian investment world who once clerked for a future Supreme Court chief justice, was running the country’s largest pension management organization by his early 40s, and had served as an advisor to the Trudeau government on economic policy.
The ground has also shifted for BlackRock, the New York-based firm that manages nearly US$7 trillion in assets and has already lost a senior executive this year due to “personal conduct.”
In an internal memo sent to some of BlackRock’s staff Thursday, Wiseman said he was leaving because, in recent months, he had “engaged in a consensual relationship” with a colleague without reporting it as required.
“I regret my mistake and I accept responsibility for my actions,” he wrote, adding that he was committed to doing everything he could to ensure “an orderly transition.”
Larry Fink, BlackRock’s founder, chairman and chief executive, issued his own memo to all employees, in which he expressed disappointment in the lapse in the upper echelons of his firm where Wiseman was a senior managing director handling complex equity strategies, and chairman of the firm’s alternatives business.
“This is not who BlackRock is…. We expect every employee to uphold the highest standards of behaviour,” Fink wrote in the memo, which was also signed by BlackRock president Rob Kapito.
“This especially critical for our senior leaders,” the memo said, adding that it was “deeply disappointing” for BlackRock to lose a second senior executive this year “because of their personal conduct.”
Jeff Smith, who had been at the firm for more than a decade, resigned as head of human resources in July after he breached an unspecified policy, according to a memo circulated by BlackRock at that time.
The 67-year-old Fink has not announced retirement plans, but his age has stoked the crafting of lists of candidates for heir apparent that have often included Wiseman’s name. He was one of three on a “short list of stars” identified in an article that appeared in Institutional Investor, an industry newsletter, in May.
Former associates of Wiseman’s from his days as a senior pension executive reacted to news of his departure from Blackrock with shock and disappointment. Speaking on condition they would not be named, one said the circumstances of his departure were very surprising, while another called the situation unfortunate.
None wanted to speculate on what Wiseman will do next, or how the nature of his departure from BlackRock could affect the plans of the 49-year-old who has always seemed to be on an upward trajectory.
A lawyer by training, Wiseman’s resume was stacked with accomplishments including clerking for Beverley McLachlin at the Supreme Court of Canada early in his career, and practicing law at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York and Paris. He also received an MBA from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Laws from Yale, where he was a Fulbright Scholar.
His pension management credentials were honed at the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, where he was responsible for the private equity fund and co-investment programs.
“I regret my mistake and I accept responsibility for my actions
In addition to his responsibilities at CPPIB, where he worked for seven years before becoming CEO in 2012, Wiseman served on the board of the institutional investor-backed Canadian Coalition for Good Governance, where his wife Marcia Moffat is the current chair.
Moffat, who once led Royal Bank of Canada’s retail banking division, is head of BlackRock’s Canadian business, a job she took the year before Wiseman got his job with the New York-based firm in 2016. Wiseman said at the time that he planned to spend time in both Toronto and New York.
That same year, Wiseman was named to a 14-member advisory council of business leaders and experts assembled by finance minster Bill Morneau to advise the federal government on economic growth and strategy.
Wiseman and the chair of that advisory council, Dominic Barton, who was then global managing partner at McKinsey & Co., had earlier joined forces to combat “short termism,” a trend of making decisions to meet investor demands for quarterly returns at the expense of focusing on building value for the long term.
Did You See This CB Softwares?
37 SOFTWARE TOOLS... FOR $27!?Join Affiliate Bots Right Away
Wiseman could not be reached for comment Thursday. An email sent to his BlackRock address generated an automated response directing inquiries about business matters to a managing director at Blackrock, and said personal emails would be passed on to Wiseman.
Teams that previously reported to Wiseman will now report Kapito, BlackRock’s president, according to the company memo distributed Thursday.
Below are the internal memos sent this morning regarding the departure of Mark Wiseman:
Memo to all employees from Larry Fink, BlackRock’s Chairman and CEO, and Rob Kapito, BlackRock’s President
After joining BlackRock three years ago, Global Head of Active Equities Mark Wiseman is leaving the firm following a violation of the company’s Relationships at Work Policy. This issue had no impact on any portfolios or client activities.
Our culture has always been one of BlackRock’s greatest strengths, and it is deeply disappointing that two senior executives have departed the firm in the same year because of their personal conduct. This is not who BlackRock is. This is not our culture. We expect every employee to uphold the highest standards of behavior. This is especially critical for our senior leaders.
We are fortunate that we have an organization in which colleagues recognize the importance of protecting our culture and speaking up when they are aware of violations of company policy. When the firm becomes aware of a breach of policy or conduct that is not in line with our values, we move quickly and decisively to address it. Acting with such purpose is critical to reinforcing our culture.
Over the past several years, we have made considerable progress strengthening our Active Equities franchise, and we are well positioned to continue this momentum to deliver strong performance and capture client demand. Our investments in industry-leading in-house research capabilities, data, and technology are reflected in the strong long-term performance with 85% of Fundamental Active Equity AUM and 90% of Systematic Active Equity AUM above benchmark or peer median over a five-year period, as of the third quarter. The leaders of the Active Equity teams who previously reported to Mark will report to Rob as we assess the best leadership structure to continue to drive the business forward.
There are no changes in our alternatives business, where Mark served as Chairman. Edwin Conway, the Global Head of BAI, and Jim Barry, the Chief Investment Officer of BAI, are providing strong day-to-day leadership and will continue to do so. They oversee all aspects of the business, and Edwin will continue to report to Rob. BAI continues to deliver strong performance, and we’re on track for another year of record flows.
We want to thank the leaders of all our active equities and alternatives teams for the tremendous momentum they have created in these areas. We also want to thank everyone across the firm for the commitment and conviction you demonstrate every day in serving BlackRock’s purpose and living our principles. You represent the best of BlackRock’s culture, and we have never been prouder of the work you do.
Larry and Rob
Memo from Mark Wiseman to a subset of colleagues
It has been a tremendous honor to work with all of you as we have sought to redefine the future of active management across both public equities and private markets.
I am leaving BlackRock because in recent months I engaged in a consensual relationship with one of our colleagues without reporting it as required by BlackRock’s Relationships at Work Policy. I regret my mistake and I accept responsibility for my actions.
I leave the firm feeling incredibly proud of what we accomplished in such a short time. I have the greatest respect for BlackRock and am confident that you all will continue to deliver excellence to our clients and redefine the future of our industry.
What’s more, I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure an orderly transition.
In closing, let me express my sincere thanks to each of you for the commitment you have shown to BlackRock and the friendship you have shown to me.