The most important engineer in finance just got promoted
It’s hard to pick the most important technologist in the entire financial system. It’s also hard to pick someone more important than the person heading up the tech behind BlackRock’s Aladdin program.
That person is Lance Braunstein, who was recently named head of Aladdin engineering. Before joining BlackRock in 2019, he was chief information officer of OptionsHouse (and E*TRADE, after the former was acquired by the latter).
Braunstein had an interesting rise through finance’s hierarchies. After a master’s degree in atmospheric science, he started his career as a climate modelling scientist in Maryland before joining Systems Engineering Group, a tech consultancy. Morgan Stanley came after, where he spent 10 years (and did an MBA at Wharton). He left an MD and spent another 7 years at Goldman – also as an MD and head of client platforms - and joined OptionsHouse after that.
Aladdin is a big beast. A platform offering investment management and risk analysis, It aims to operate as a one-stop-shop for investors. Sudhir Nair, the program’s global head, said at BlackRock’s latest investor day earlier this week that Aladdin is a “multi-decade” endeavor, and that over 4,500 data engineers are working on its features. For reference, that’s almost twice as many people as the European Space Agency has in total employees.
Aladdin itself generates $1.4bn of revenues for BlackRock. The platform has over 130,000 users and monitors 3,000 risk factors. Still, continued growth was “expected”, based on expanding the platform to as many as markets as possible – global from the US, private from public, and wealth investors from institutional. Aladdin climate, an ESG-focused suite, was released back in 2020.
BlackRock is also investing directly in its expanding footprint. The firm took strategic investments in Avaloq, Envestnet, and Clarity AI, all fintechs, two of which are focused on tech related specifically to wealth management.
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