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Cisco CEO nominated to bring tech chops to BlackRock board

Chuck Robbins, CEO, Cisco, USA, speaks at a Cyber security conference in Tel Aviv, Israel January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

By Trevor Hunnicutt

NEW YORK (Reuters) - BlackRock Inc (BLK.N), the world's largest asset manager, on Wednesday said Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) Chief Executive Chuck Robbins has been nominated to serve on its board of directors.

Robbins will join the board as an independent director, if elected by shareholders, following BlackRock's May 25 annual meeting, the company said in a statement.

He brings technology expertise to a company trying to steer an industry that is being remade both by technology and investors' move to lower-cost products such as index funds.

Murry Gerber, an existing BlackRock board member and former chief executive of EQT Corp (EQT.N), will become the lead independent director, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Former PNC Financial Services Group Inc (PNC.N) Chief Executive Thomas O'Brien, who had been the lead independent director, will not stand for reelection. Nor will former Merrill Lynch & Co Chief Executive David Komansky.

PNC is a major BlackRock shareholder and its current chief executive, William Demchak, sits on BlackRock's board.

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has placed an unusual emphasis on highly sophisticated technology for a company in his industry, for instance promoting Aladdin, an operating system for money managers that the company maintains, licenses to its rivals and also uses itself.

Fink, who is also chairman of the company's board, is also attempting to reengineer the company's funds by relying more on computers and data-mining to pick stocks.

Other asset managers are taking notice, investing in engineering talent and in "robo-advice" tools that manage investors' money automatically. T. Rowe Price Group Inc (TROW.O) said on Wednesday it would open a new Technology Development Center in New York.

"Throughout his career, Chuck has helped global corporations navigate a world being reshaped by technological advancement," Fink said in a statement.

"At BlackRock, technology is rapidly transforming how we invest, measure risk, distribute our products, and run our operations."

BlackRock managed $5 trillion at the end of 2016.

Robbins is a veteran at the network equipment maker, a totem of the dotcom stock boom at the turn of this century. He took over from longtime Chief Executive John Chambers in 2015.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Chris Reese and James Dalgleish)