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Larry Fink: The pioneer who fought his way to the top

Fink puts BlackRock centre stage

Larry Fink is one of the pioneers of the mortgage-backed securities market. As a trader at First Boston a quarter of a century ago, he pitched the first collateralized mortgage obligation that Freddie Mac ever did.

He can be self-deprecating, for example in recounting his ouster from First Boston in 1986 after his desk lost $100 million in a single quarter when the markets moved in ways he didn’t understand. The firm should really have sacked him the quarter before, he is wont to joke – his desk had made $130 million profit, and he didn’t know how he managed that either.

Fink went to run the asset-management side of The Blackstone Group, taking with him a determination to build the best risk management and analytical tools he needed to avoid being blindsided again by the ever-changing and fast-growing mortgage markets.

Sober, besuited and intellectual, Fink lacks the easy charm and ingratiating manner that come naturally to so many in the industry. He declaims, speaking not so much in complete sentences as in entire paragraphs on the markets and the business about which he is passionate.

Now 56, he works as hard as chief executive as he ever did as a trader on the way up, getting to his desk before 7am, putting in 12-hour days, travelling extensively.

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