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BlackRock CMO invokes Kanye West lyric for the financial services industry

Frank Cooper III, the chief marketing officer of BlackRock, the $6.31 trillion investing giant, quotes Kanye West at Money 20/20 in Las Vegas. (Photo Credit: Alec Coughlin)

Frank Cooper III, the chief marketing officer of BlackRock (BLK), the $6.31 trillion investment behemoth, invoked a hip-hop lyric for how the financial services industry should think about wealth.

“It’s a line from Kanye West,” he said, before sharing a slide that said, “‘Wait ’til I get my money right.'”

Cooper was speaking at the Money 20/20 in Las Vegas, a marquee fintech industry conference.

“I know. It’s Kanye West,” he said. “I know, I know. Put aside the rants or whether you think he’s a genius or a fool. I happen to think he’s a genius.”

Cooper made a case that this lyric hints at a “core human need” that the financial services industry can help fulfill. Specifically, financial services can help people achieve a “heightened sense of wellbeing in their lives” just like nutrition, exercise, and relationships.

The food and beverage industry began offering healthier choices because they recognized that consumers wanted that. What’s more, a massive fitness industry has grown so much that many people now view running and working out as lifestyle choices rather than chores or activities reserved for elite athletes. Another trend has been the rise of co-working spaces as entrepreneurs seek out a sense of community and connection. What happened across these industries is happening in the financial services industry where wealth can contribute to a greater sense of wellbeing, according to Cooper.

“People are telling us over and over again that they want a greater sense of wellbeing,” Cooper said. “In our industry, the world of financial services, we try to make that connection by using financial wealth and wellbeing. The truth is that the goal is not financial wellness or financial wellbeing. It’s simply wellness or wellbeing.”

It’s about more than material things

The ultimate goal is an overall sense of thriving or flourishing, not the pursuit of material things.

“I know we serve people who are obsessed with only increasing their material wealth without regards to any higher aspiration and that’s perfectly fine; we should serve them too. But, most people understand that greed in and of itself has no end, and it doesn’t enhance a sense of wellbeing for most people,” he explained. “You can have all the money in the world and still have wellbeing still elude you.”

The problem is that many people are seeking this greater sense of wellbeing, but don’t see the wealth connection.

“In our industry and our cultural discourse is we’ve disconnected money from wellbeing entirely. We think of money as a means to a material end. Society portrays wealth, not in terms of success, but excess. It’s the lifestyle of the rich and famous, living larger than life, the material acquisitions of the ultra high net worth own that become the markers of wealth.”

That’s why when people hear wealth being part of one’s wellbeing they “cringe,” he added.

“Far too many people believe they can never be rich. I believe the reason why we struggle with the term wealth being associated with wellbeing is we often conflate the term wealth with wealthy. We use it interchangeably — wealth and wealthy. But being wealthy is a destination. There’s a certain amount in peoples minds that represents that they’ve crossed a threshold. It’s ‘wait ’til I get my money right.’ But, wealth is a set of behaviors, a way of thinking that allows us to move forward financially no matter where you are, no matter your station in life, no matter your circumstances.”

How financial services can reconnect wealth to wellbeing

Cooper said there are three approaches the financial services industry needs to take to reconnect wealth to wellbeing.

First, they need to adopt a holistic view of money. In other words, helping people improve how they earn, save, spend, invest, and give. The second part is empathy and the need for financial services professionals to put themselves in the shoes of others and listen and ask questions with the intent to understand. And third is to use technology and digital experiences in finance “like Fitbit for the fitness space to remind us we are not getting in enough steps.”

The reason it’s essential to “reclaim the connection between wealth and wellbeing” comes down to trust, Cooper said.

“We are currently witnessing one of the dramatic losses of trust not only in financial institutions but institutions in general,” he said. “Trust in traditional institutions and authority has been pummeled.”

He added that people “actually trust strangers more than institutions,” pointing to Uber and Airbnb as examples of people trusting strangers because the users police them. 

He urged the financial services industry to pursue a higher purpose to “rebuild trust.”


Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter. Send tips to laroche@oath.com.