BlackRock to lead funding round for fintech startup

The BlackRock logo is seen at the BlackRock Japan headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

NEW YORK (Reuters) - BlackRock Inc plans to lead the next funding round for the startup iCapital Network, which gives individual investors access to private equity funds, hedge funds, and other alternative investments, the two companies said on Thursday.

BlackRock has been eager to expand its footprint in financial technology and in alternative investments, which are used by wealthy individual investors but remain the domain largely of institutional investors such as pension funds and insurance firms.

Last year BlackRock bought FutureAdvisor, a robo-adviser that manages savings for individual investors. It also has been bulking up its own staff of developers, who work on Aladdin, the company’s operating system for investment management.

Previous investors in iCapital have included Credit Suisse Group AG.

Competitors include Artivest, with backers such as private equity firm KKR & Co and billionaire investor Peter Thiel. BlackRock uses Artivest to sell a private infrastructure fund through financial advisers.

Frank Porcelli, chairman of BlackRock’s Wealth Advisory unit that sells to financial advisory firms, is also joining the iCapital board. The company said it has about 3,000 investors who use its platform to access private investments.

Terms of the deal, the size of the investment round and the startup’s valuation were not disclosed.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by David Gregorio