BlackRock CEO: Ukraine War Could Speed Digital Currency Adoption

Larry Fink says world’s largest asset manager is studying digital assets, stablecoins and the underlying technologies


key takeaways

  • A global digital payment system can enhance the settlement of international transactions and reduce the risk of money laundering, Fink said in a shareholder letter
  • The company filed to launch a blockchain ETF in January

The war in Ukraine could accelerate the adoption of digital currency, according to the CEO of the world’s largest asset manager. 

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink wrote in a shareholder letter published Thursday that Russia’s “brutal attack” on Ukraine has had, and will continue to have, a range of ramifications on the world. 

Though several governments were already looking to play a more active role in digital currencies and define the regulatory frameworks under which they operate, Fink said, the war will prompt countries to re-evaluate their currency dependencies.

“A global digital payment system, thoughtfully designed, can enhance the settlement of international transactions while reducing the risk of money laundering and corruption,” he wrote. “Digital currencies can also help bring down costs of cross-border payments, for example when expatriate workers send earnings back to their families.”

Fink said that due to increased interest from clients, BlackRock is studying digital currencies, stablecoins and the underlying technologies. US government agencies are also researching various parts of the crypto space following President Biden’s executive order earlier this month focused on the “responsible development” of digital assets. 

A BlackRock spokesperson declined to comment about future crypto-related products and services the company could look to offer.

BlackRock’s CEO has sent mixed messages on crypto over the past year. 

Fink said during an interview with CNBC in October that he believes there is “a huge role for a digitized currency” and noted that his firm was learning about the blockchain and crypto sectors. He said at the time, however, that he is “probably more in the Jamie Dimon camp.”

Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, called bitcoin “worthless” that month during a virtual event held by the Institute of International Finance. 

Fink had said during an earnings call last April that investors worldwide, such as pension funds, insurance companies and registered investment advisers, were showing little interest in the space.

But BlackRock, which manages $10 trillion in assets, began allowing its Strategic Income Opportunities and Global Allocation mutual funds to invest in cash-settled bitcoin futures in January 2021. 

More recently, the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in January to launch the iShares Blockchain and Tech ETF

The fund would track an index comprising companies involved in the development and deployment of crypto technologies in the US and abroad.

The initial Jan. 21 disclosure proposed for the ETF to become effective 75 days after the filing, signaling a potential launch next month.

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