By Sarah Krouse and Joann S. Lublin
BlackRock Inc. is adding a slate of new board members as the world's largest money manager tackles two pillars of its growth strategy: technology and international operations.
The firm has named Margaret "Peggy" Johnson, executive vice president of business development at Microsoft Corp.; William Ford, chief executive of private-equity firm General Atlantic LLC; and U.K. insurer Aviva Plc Chief Executive Mark Wilson as directors, a spokesman said.
BlackRock, which manages $6.3 trillion in assets, attracted record new investor cash last year, pulling in the equivalent of $1 billion each day. Its business now spans investing, advisory work and a risk and portfolio management technology system known as Aladdin that the firm uses internally and sells to a growing list of financial companies.
Chief Executive Laurence Fink has said the New York firm has a goal of having a third of its revenue being "enabled by technology" in the next five years, partly through Aladdin and by using technology to fuel better investment performance and fund sales. BlackRock currently spends more than $1 billion on technology and data.
The firm last year added Cisco Systems Inc. Chief Chuck Robbins as a director, making him the first technology chief on the board.
The three new members are the most BlackRock has added at one time. The additions come as several of the firm's board members have left recently thanks to the company's age policy for directors.
Microsoft's Ms. Johnson, 56, spent more than 20 years at Qualcomm, where she was a member of the executive committee, before joining the Seattle-based technology giant.
After the expected election of the new directors at BlackRock's shareholder meeting May 23, five of the total 18 board members will be female, or about 28% of the group. At that time, a third of independent directors will be women, the highest proportion ever at BlackRock.
BlackRock and other large money managers such as State Street Global Advisors have pressed the companies in which they invest, particularly in the last year, to make their boards more diverse.
Mr. Ford, 56, has led General Atlantic since 2007 and the private-equity firm counts payments company Adyen, a number of financial technology startups and China-based internet and technology companies among the firms in which it has invested. Mr. Ford sits on the boards of portfolio companies such as IHS Markit and designer brand Tory Burch.
Aviva's Mr. Wilson, a 51-year-old New Zealand native, worked for 14 years in Asia, including four years as chief of insurer AIA Group Limited before joining the U.K. firm. BlackRock has increasingly sought to provide investment management and advice to big insurers with the help of Aladdin in recent years.
It has also tried to generate more revenue overseas. The percent of its base fees and assets under management derived from the Asia Pacific region has held steady at 7% to 8% in the last five years.
The new BlackRock appointments follow a number of director departures in recent years spurred by its age policy. Under the group's governance guidelines, directors must retire at age 75 -- unless they reached 70 years old as of July 2013, in which case they are able to serve until age 80.
Two long-serving directors with backgrounds in finance left the board last year because of the age limit and another two have now reached that threshold.
James Grosfeld, the former chairman and chief executive of Pulte Homes Inc., and Abdlatif Al-Hamad, chairman of the board for the Arab Fund For Economic and Social Development, will not stand for re-election at this year's annual meeting. A fifth independent director at BlackRock resigned last summer.
Few big businesses have boards as big as BlackRock does. The money manager and General Electric Co. were the only companies in the S&P 500 with 18 board members in 2017, according to a proxy statement analysis by Spencer Stuart, an executive-recruitment firm. The average S&P 500 board had 10.8 members last year, the Spencer Stuart study reported.
Under a new management team, GE will soon shrink the size of its board. The conglomerate will have just 12 directors following this spring's annual meeting.
Write to Sarah Krouse at firstname.lastname@example.org and Joann S. Lublin at email@example.com