By Nick Erickson
It was a business communications class at George Washington University that first introduced Oscar Pulido, B.B.A. ’01, to the commercial side of finance and investing, sparking a career in global asset management. Now the global head of product strategy for the Multi-Asset Strategies & Solutions platform at BlackRock, Pulido frequently visits GW School of Business classrooms and pays it forward by offering perspective from his side of the industry.
But word of mouth isn’t the only way he’s giving back, as he helped to bring BlackRock’s initiative to teach students how to use its Aladdin technology to GW’s Investment Institute. Aladdin is BlackRock’s end-to-end portfolio management platform that combines sophisticated risk analytics with comprehensive portfolio management tools, trading, operations, compliance and accounting tools on a single platform.
GW is now one of just 11 schools in the world working with BlackRock through this initiative.
As a part of the initiative, students enrolled in professor and GWSB Vice Dean for Undergraduate Education Rodney Lake’s Applied Financial Securities Analysis class attended five training sessions teaching them the building blocks of Aladdin, ultimately gaining free access to the technology to get their own hands-on experience to look at their own student investment fund portfolios from sort of a bird's-eye view.
Having access to this technology is especially beneficial for this class as the students manage four student investment funds, including the GW Phillips Student Investment Fund, launched back in 2008 and named after former GWSB Dean Susan Phillips.
“As we learned about the firm's interest in starting to bring Aladdin technology to student managed investment funds, it just became a function of do we know the right people to call, and were we interested in introducing this next generation of asset managers to this language of risk?” Pulido said. “And the answer is absolutely.”
Students in Lake’s course act as analysts and portfolio managers for the investment funds they manage, which makes this a perfect fit since BlackRock also manages investment portfolios for its clients. The students appreciate the value of having access to a tool that industry leaders use.
“Being able to use a tool to understand our risk and understand different portfolio insights such as how our return is structured within different look-back periods that Aladdin technology offers is very valuable,” said senior finance major Trevor Haen.
On Nov. 30, Pulido and fellow GW alumnus Dan Someck, B.B.A. ’06, a portfolio manager at BlackRock, visited the Applied Financial Securities Analysis class in person to further discuss Aladdin, as well as their own journeys from GW to Wall Street. Both remember fondly faculty members that had a particular impact on them—Professor of Finance William Handorf for Pulido and Associate Professor of Finance Alexandre Baptista for Someck—and advised students to take advantage of the expertise around them.
“Faculty being able to make that time is born within the identity and culture of the school, and that was something I’ll always remember,” Someck said. “The truth of the matter is, you try to carry that over into your professional life and to be taught that at an early age is pretty powerful.”
Students were lively and engaged in a Q & A session, and they found great value in learning from two professionals who were once in their shoes.
“Having GW practitioners in the real world is invaluable to have something to relate to and having them speak to how it is to function in a professional capacity,” sophomore finance and accounting student Will Ahrens said.
One student asked about BlackRock’s view of investing in environmental, social and governance principles. Pulido said that someday, climate risk will just be known as investment risk. Much of the industry have taken a stand on sustainability, especially as they’ve seen customers express how important that value is to them.
Additionally, Pulido said BlackRock has a willingness to evolve and change as the world does. BlackRock also has made diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) a point of emphasis in how they conduct business, and Pulido believes this partnership with GW is evidence of that.
“I view this initiative bringing Aladdin technology to GW as a small thread of how we're trying to achieve our DEI objectives, which is to come to the school that we're associated with and one that we know has a diverse student population,” he said. “We know this can have an impact on the community, maybe open some eyes for the students, [present them with] a career path they hadn't thought about and maybe even equip them with a skill set that they'll use.”