BlackRock's head of infra to lead new real assets group

The move to combine the firm's infrastructure and real estate platforms, with Jim Barry at the helm, comes as part of a reshuffling of the entire BlackRock business.   

BlackRock has undergone a major restructuring of its management team that includes a merger of its infrastructure and real estate platforms under current head of infrastructure Jim Barry , according to an internal memo seen by Infrastructure Investor. 

Barry's success in growing BlackRock's infrastructure business over the last couple of years – and BlackRock's desire to keep growing its infrastructure arm over the coming years – is said to have played an integral part in the asset manager's decision to promote him to head of the newly formed real assets group. 

In addition to his new role as head of real assets, Barry will continue in his position as managing director of the BlackRock Infrastructure Investment Group (BIIG). The firm's real estate team is led by global head Marcus Sperber and global chief investment officer Simon Treacy. 

BlackRock currently maintains $7.5 billion in investments and commitments in infrastructure, with the new real assets unit having a combined $29 billion of assets under management. In the memo, BlackRock explained that clients are increasingly viewing real assets as a distinct and more integrated asset class and said it wanted to be at the forefront of thinking and investing in the space in this way.

In a recent report for BlackRock's institutional investor clients prepared by The Economist Intelligence Unit, institutional investors are said to have a growing appetite for real assets. In the survey that informed the report, the majority of participating investors defined real assets as primarily consisting of infrastructure, real estate and commodities as well as timber and farmland.

Ninety-six percent of respondents to the survey reported active investments in real estate, 66 percent in infrastructure – the “newest and fastest-growing segment” – and 29 percent in commodities, with a median real asset allocation of 11 percent of total portfolios. The majority of respondents reported either currently having internal capacity to vet real asset investments or planning to build that capacity in the near term.

As part of its overall realignment, BlackRock is unifying its global fixed-income business under veteran manager Tim Webb, who will work alongside newly appointed chief information officer Rick Reider. 

The firm also recently reshuffled the management team of the BlackRock Utility and Infrastructure Trust (BUI), its closed-end fund.