People Moves: BlackRock appoints CEO of Oil Giant Aramco to its Board
Press Release (Bloomberg) -- BlackRock Inc. has named Saudi Aramco Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser to its board, underscoring the asset manager's commitment to the oil industry in the middle of a highly politicized debate about its role in ESG investing.
asser has led the world's biggest oil producer since 2015, including overseeing its public listing, and provides BlackRock with "a unique perspective" on key issues facing the company and its clients, CEO Larry Fink said Monday in an emailed statement.
BlackRock and Fink, 70, have been criticized by both sides of the political divide over ESG investing after promoting the strategy as a way to help the global economy respond to climate change. Environmental advocates have slammed the firm for continuing to pile capital into the fossil fuel industry, while some Republicans have accused BlackRock of peddling a "woke" agenda that they say is at odds with American capitalism.
It's "a very cunning move," said Sasja Beslik, chief investment officer at NextGen ESG in Japan.
Bringing Nasser onto BlackRock's board "partly signals that we need oil and gas at the table if we are to make this transition work," he said. But the move also "protects BlackRock from vultures questioning its public ESG stance, which in practice was never hard core."
At times, Nasser has taken issue with the ESG movement, warning in February that an increased focus on environmental, social and governance metrics was undermining investment in oil and gas to the point of posing a threat to global energy security. He serves on several boards, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Presidential CEO Advisory Board and the JP Morgan International Council.
"His leadership experience, understanding of the global energy industry and the drivers of the shift toward a low-carbon economy, as well as his knowledge of the Middle East region, will all contribute meaningfully to the BlackRock board dialogue," Fink said in the statement.
The appointment "raises an interesting question," said Ulf Erlandsson, CEO of the Anthropocene Fixed Income Institute. "How should clients who exclude Aramco from their investment portfolios view the fact that Aramco is becoming an even more important voice at the service provider?"
There's a risk that "this move will trigger some client uneasiness," which is "the flip side to the anti-ESG fire that BlackRock has come under in the US," Erlandsson said.
Bader Al-Saad, director general and chairman of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, won't stand for re-election to BlackRock's board next year, according to the statement.
BlackRock, the world's biggest asset manager, has a $2.4 billion position in Aramco, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
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