WSJ, How Much New Investor Cash Did BlackRock Attract in 2017? $1 Billion a Day, Jan. 13–14, 2018

The world’s largest asset manager reached a new milestone during 2017: the equivalent of $1 billion of new client cash every day.

The annual net inflow of $367.3 billion helped BlackRock Inc. BLK 3.27% pass $6 trillion in assets for the first time, up more than $1 trillion from the end of 2016. The record haul during 2017 amounted to more than $698,000 a minute.

The pace of new investor cash into BlackRock puts it in the same league as rival Vanguard Group, which attracted a net $369.3 billion in new money last year. The two managers now oversee a combined $11.2 trillion, higher than the gross domestic product of China in 2016.

Landon Thomas, Jr., At BlackRock, Machines Are Rising Over Managers to Pick Stocks, New York Times, March 28, 2017

On Tuesday, BlackRock laid out an ambitious plan to consolidate a large number of actively managed mutual funds with peers that rely more on algorithms and models to pick stocks. …

Some $30 billion in assets (about 11 percent of active equity funds) will be targeted, with $6 billion rebranded BlackRock Advantage funds. These funds focus on quantitative and other strategies that adopt a more rules-based approach to investing.

“The democratization of information has made it much harder for active management,” Mr. Fink said in an interview. “We have to change the ecosystem — that means relying more on big data, artificial intelligence, factors and models within quant and traditional investment strategies.”

Stealth socialism

“Passive” investment vehicles, like those low-fee index funds, now soak up enormous amounts of cash. In America, since 2008, about $600 billion in holdings of actively managed mutual funds (which pick investments strategically) have been sold off, while $1 trillion has flowed into passive funds. So the passive funds now hold gargantuan ownership stakes in large, public firms. That makes for some awkward economics. Research by Jan Fichtner, Eelke Heemskerk and Javier Garcia-Bernardo from the University of Amsterdam tracks the holdings of the “Big Three” asset managers: BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street. Treated as a single entity, they would now be the largest shareholder in just over 40% of listed American firms, which, adjusting for market capitalisation, account for nearly 80% of the market (see chart).