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BlackRock Inc., the largest fund manager in the world, plans to cut 500 jobs, or 3 per cent of its work force, in coming weeks, according to a memo reviewed by Reuters on Thursday.

“We are always looking for ways to improve how we operate, to simplify our processes and structures, to prudently manage expenses, and to accelerate growth,” said BlackRock president Rob Kapito in the memo. “The changes we are making now will help us continue to invest in our most important strategic growth opportunities for the future.”

Mr. Kapito said the company wants to continue to invest “while key competitors will be playing defence” in areas including high-growth markets, technology and improving how the company works with clients. The company will also focus on key products, including exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

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He added that the company’s head count will still be 4 per cent higher than a year ago after the layoffs. The job cuts are not concentrated in any one geographic region or unit, according to people familiar with the moves.

BlackRock oversees US$6.4-trillion in assets under management. In 2018, investors sold off asset managers’ stocks as wild-swinging markets cut funds’ returns, accelerating a stampede to lower-fee products.

BlackRock’s iShares unit has a leading position in ETFs, which typically track the market and charge lower fees than products that try to beat the market. And while BlackRock has often been able to defend its iShares, investors fear a race to zero in that business, too.

BlackRock’s stock is down nearly a third from a record high near US$600 a share last year. It traded around US$400 this week. The company is set to report fourth-quarter earnings next week.

On Wednesday, chief executive Larry Fink gave Mark Wiedman, the executive behind the company’s iShares ETF brand, a new job overseeing strategy, marketing and international businesses as the world’s largest asset manager grooms possible successors to Fink.

Mr. Fink also told employees in a memo that the company would be announcing additional changes “to bring the firm closer together, to simplify our organization, to make us more nimble, and to create new opportunities to drive growth and serve our clients.”

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