BlackRock Taps Cisco CEO as Line Between Tech and Everything Else Blurs

Chuck Robbins' arrival comes as robots expand their capabilities, intensifying the urgency to mine the tech sector for new people and partnerships.

Silicon Valley’s influence over the rest of corporate America has grown even more powerful, now that BlackRock has appointed Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins as a new non-executive director.

The hire follows reports that the world’s biggest fund manager had laid off staff to concentrate more on its robo-adviser capabilities and sounds an alarm call to boards that still don’t have much in the way of tech chops.

And it’s not just people that banks and investment managers are turning to. New PwC research released this morning, based on the opinions of more than 1,300 financial services executives, found 82% expect to increase partnerships with fintech competitors over the next three-to-five years.


“Throughout his career, Chuck has helped global corporations navigate a world being reshaped by technological advancement,” BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said. “At BlackRock, technology is rapidly transforming how we invest, measure risk, distribute our products, and run our operations.”

The boardroom vacancy came after two industry stalwarts, the former CEOs of Merrill Lynch and PNC Financial Services, indicated they wouldn’t stand for re-election.

As recently reported by Chief Executive, a growing number of non-tech companies are recruiting from the tech sector as the line between the two becomes blurred. Starbucks and Mattel both recently appointed CEOs with deep backgrounds at Microsoft and Google, respectively.

At the boardroom level, Exxon and Walmart recently appointed Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom and former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano as directors.

Many other companies, however, aren’t catching the drift.

A recent global analysis of 518 large companies across 39 countries by Accenture found that around 10% of their board members had professional technology experience. Interestingly, female directors were almost twice as more likely to come from a tech background than their male counterparts, perhaps reflecting the increased value being placed on board diversity in general.

“Today, digital is transforming everything, rendering every business—regardless of industry—a digital business,” Accenture said.

The PwC study, meanwhile, also found that banking-sector leaders estimate that 24% of their current revenue is at risk of falling into the hands of fintech startups.


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