June 8, 2015 / 8:03 PM / 2 years ago

ON THE MOVE-BlackRock taps Google scientist to help big data push

June 8 (Reuters) - BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager, has hired Bill MacCartney, a former senior Google research scientist, as a managing director, joining its scientific-active equity team, a company spokesman confirmed to Reuters.

MacCartney will help apply predictive models to BlackRock’s quantitative investing, the spokesman said.

New York-based BlackRock, which has $4.8 trillion in assets under management, has been hiring aggressively to help with its push into big data, which it believes will help it decide which companies to buy and sell, Larry Fink, chief executive officer at BlackRock, said on May 27 at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York.

“We are investing huge sums of money in people,” Fink said, discussing the firm’s focus.

Fink said he believes that companies like BlackRock need to use technology more to mine big data.

“I do believe that technology is going to change the way we invest,” Fink said at the conference.

While a lot of people attribute the weakness in active management to the low interest rate environment, Fink said he believes it was more than that.

“I think it is more that technology has allowed us to screen every company in the universe today,” he said. “There is no such thing as lost stock.”

To that end, BlackRock’s “scientific active equity” quant team has been putting a greater emphasis on gathering “unstructured data,” meaning it does not come as line items in analyst reports of regulatory filings, Paul Ebner, portfolio manager and member of the group, told Reuters in an interview earlier this year.

Currently, 20 percent of the group’s data is “unstructured,” he said.

For example, over the past couple of years the company has started monitoring social media sites, particularly ones that track employee sentiment, to gauge the success of the company it owns. (Reporting By Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Alan Crosby)

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