Manager backed by Thiel, Ackman to launch ETFs emphasizing excellence over politics

Strive has raised more than $20 million “from some of America’s most prominent venture capitalists and entrepreneurs,” according to a news release issued Monday announcing the firm’s launch. Among those providing seed financing according to the release were PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Bill Ackman, founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management.

Mr. Ramaswamy acknowledged that the three big asset managers have many advantages, but he believes his firm’s message will resonate with investors. Strive believes there is “a fiduciary gap that needs to be filled,” and that demand from everyday citizens “will ultimately be our greatest competitive advantage,” he said.

When talking to clients about how to allocate their portfolios, in addition to discussing things like risk and sector exposure, the conversation now will also have to include talk about voting and engagement exposure as well, Mr. Ramaswamy said.

“To date, you could say it’s no one’s fault because there maybe hasn’t been an alternative choice” he said. “But once we bring that choice to the table, being agnostic on that issue is no longer an option for a fiduciary.”

A spokeswoman for Vanguard Group said it stewards the assets of more than 30 million individual investors who it knows hold a broad range of personal views and priorities.

“One thing they have in common is entrusting Vanguard with their savings for long-term goals like retirement,” the spokeswoman said. “We are grounded in our duty to act in their best interests.”

Benjamin Colton, global head of asset stewardship – voting and engagement at State Street Global Advisors, said in a statement that while it has seen a shift in recent years regarding how financial institutions have voted, SSGA has maintained a “clear and consistent” approach to its voting, especially on shareholder proposals.

“We have published several frameworks on how we evaluate the proposals on social and environmental matters and believe this transparency builds credibility and is in the best interest of our clients,” Mr. Colton’s statement said. “Our stewardship efforts continue to be focused on creating value and fulfilling our fiduciary duty.”

A spokesman for BlackRock declined to comment.

BlackRock had $9.6 trillion in assets under management as of March 31. Vanguard’s AUM totaled $8.1 trillion as of March 31, while SSGA’s AUM totaled about $4 trillion.

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