Larry Fink Still Has Something to Prove

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -You've got to hand it to Larry Fink, one of just a few men on Wall Street-- Blackstone Group ( BX)'s Steve Schwarzman is another who comes to mind--who can legitimately claim to have outdone Napoleon in leveraging an inferiority complex into a global empire.

BlackRock, Inc. ( BLK)'s CEO and Chairman may have built the world's largest money manager from scratch in 20 years, but that was just his first act. During the past four years, his BlackRock Solutions unit has landed plum assignments from governments includes the U.S., Ireland and Greece as they attempt to work their way through economic crises worse than they've seen in several decades.
BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink

Now, as Fink and BlackRock prepare to report first quarter earnings Wednesday, they are slowly moving in on the turf of Goldman Sachs ( GS) JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) and Citigroup ( C) in trying to rewrite the rules of the securities industry.

While BlackRock shares have handily outperformed the giant investment banks during the past one five and 10-year periods, Fink still longs for the spotlight afforded to those institutions. That is likely one of the reasons BlackRock is reporting its first quarter earnings this week, alongside those companies, as opposed to, say, April 26, when giant-but-boring money managers Franklin Resources ( BEN) and Federated Investors ( FII) are scheduled to give their reports.

"People always asked me what do I care about the most for our company, and that's an easy answer; it's respect," Fink told Bloomberg earlier this month.

Fink has been trying to win back respect on Wall Street ever since, as head of First Boston's mortgage-backed securities business, his department lost $100 million, leading to "one of the more spectacular and humiliating 'flameouts,'" in Wall Street history, according to a Vanity Fair profile published two years ago.

Fink was effectively sidelined, according to the article, and left the company two years later with a spokesman telling The Wall Street Journal that Fink "did not have the option of staying in his current job."

"It was very painful," Fink told the magazine. "I was not treated as a partner or with the dignity that I expected."

Fink is now bent on remaking Wall Street. He has assembled a capital markets team that deals directly with companies looking to raise money, rather than waiting to hear from investment banks about what is on offer, according to Institutional Investor Magazine .

The bank has also been working since at least 2009 on a global trading platform that will allow its clients and other money managers to trade with each other, rather than going through securities firms.

Many questions remain about how successful Fink will be in remaking Wall Street according to his rules. Indeed, BlackRock realizes it would be too much of a gamble to go after the big banks head to head, so it still claims at this point it is merely filling in a few gaps.

"This is not meant to be - we're not meant to be us becoming a broker-dealer and competing with Wall Street," Fink said in January. Though a Financial Times report published Friday stated the money manager is indeed seeking broker dealer status from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

How far Fink and BlackRock are able to push the securities business remains to be seen. But the shocks of the 2008 crisis are still being felt across Wall Street, and there is a great deal of uncertainty about what the competitive landscape will look like in five years time. It hardly seems like a stretch to imagine Larry Fink sitting atop the Goldman Sachs of 2017.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.

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