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Blackrock is letting finance MDs write its code

Late last year, JPMorgan waxed lyrical about the benefits of introducing citizen developers to its workflow. JPMorgan appears to be new to this trend; is asset management firm Blackrock is way ahead of the curve.

In 2020, Ajar Ashyrkulova, Blackrock's head of platform analytics in the portfolio analytics group, wrote a blog post on the waves of senior finance professionals at BlackRock who were learning how to code. She described them as 'a torrent unleashing on its way incredible innovation.'

Ashyrkulova and Blackrock define citizen developers as someone without a software engineering background that leverages their ability to "programatticaly access and manipulate data" to increase efficiency. At Blackrock, Ashyrkulova said they included an MD with investment risk management experience who'd taken a sudden interest in the syntax of Python code. 

Going into 2023 the desire to integrate citizen developers is stronger than ever. The head of Blackrock's Aladdin product group Lance Braunstein recently wrote in his 2023 tech trends report that people outside their engineering department are increasingly participating in code development for the platform.

This is no small thing. BlackRock's Aladdin platform is a respected and well-used tool across the industry.

BlackRock isn't letting its citizen developers run amok, though. Braunstein said the code they write is managed by "appropriate controls" and Blackrock's hiring plans reflect this.

This week they've begun the search for a technology engineering and architecture director for their internal audit team. This new hire will monitor how architecture is "being adopted and embedded... by core technology teams as well as by business units in their citizen developer activities."

Is it all worth it? Seemingly, yes. JPMorgan said their citizen developers have led to a “a 30% productivity improvement and a 70% straight through process of improvement." At Blackrock, considering Ashyrkulova described the initiative in 2020 as "nothing short of extraordinary," who knows just how much has changed for the better in three years.

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AUTHORAlex McMurray Editor

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