Vanguard Names Crypto Groundbreaker Ramji New CEO

Appointment of the head of BlackRock’s bitcoin ETF launch, IBIT, may signal crypto shift at Vanguard.

Jeff_Benjamin
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Wealth Management Editor
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Reviewed by: etf.com Staff
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Edited by: Ron Day

Vanguard Group has named former BlackRock executive Salim Ramji as the next CEO of the $9 trillion asset management company, in what may signal a thawing of Vanguard's attitude toward popular bitcoin exchange-traded funds.

The appointment, coming two months after Vanguard announced the upcoming departure of chief executive Tim Buckley, marks the first time in Vanguard’s 49-year history that a CEO has been brought in from outside and not promoted up through the ranks. Vanguard is the second-largest ETF issuer behind BlackRock's iShares, and manages $2.56 trillion in 86 exchange-traded funds.

Ramji’s, who spent 10 years at BlackRock and left in January as Global Head of iShares & Index Investing, begins July 8.

Ramji's arrival potentially marks a shift in posture regarding cryptocurrency at Vanguard, which declined to offer spot bitcoin ETFs on its platform after they began trading in January. Ramji was instrumental in BlackRock's launch of the iShares Bitcoin ETF (IBIT), which in March set the mark of reaching $10 billion faster than any other ETF. Buckley, who announced his retirement March 1, days later reiterated his opposition to spot bitcoin ETFs, saying the asset must change and they don't belong in a long-term portfolio.

“The door was shut on crypto, and this opens the door,” Bloomberg Intelligence ETF analyst Eric Balchunas told etf.com.

Investors have poured billions into spot bitcoin funds, and IBIT is the biggest among those that didn't exist as a trust before the Jan. 10 launch.

But while Balchunas sees the potential of Vanguard increasing access to bitcoin ETFs and maybe even launching its own fund, he thinks the cryptocurrency crowd might be making too much of the crypto connection to Ramji.

“Buckley was on the record saying bitcoin sucks, and now they’re hiring the guy who launched IBIT; I get that,” Balchunas said. “But Vanguard doesn’t care about bitcoin because they’ve kind of won; they could do nothing and they would lead in inflows every year.”

As part of his research for the 2022 book, The Bogel Effect, Balchunas spent an hour interviewing Ramji and he describes the incoming CEO as “kind of a Bogelhead at heart,” in a reference to ardent followers of the investing philosophy of Vanguard founder Jack Bogel.

“This is an inspired pick,” Balchunas said. “He doesn’t believe in crazy leveraged ETFs, he thinks there’s a lot of junk that gives ETFs a bad name, and I think he was able to speak their language in the interview.”

Jeff Benjamin is the wealth management editor at etf.com, responsible for coverage related to the financial planning industry. This includes writing, hosting podcasts, webinars, video interviews and presenting at in-person events.


Jeff is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years’ experience covering the financial markets. He has won more than two dozen national and regional awards for his reporting. He most recently worked as a senior columnist at InvestmentNews where he wrote about investment products and strategies, as well as the broader financial planning industry. Prior to that, Jeff worked as an analyst at Cerulli Associates where he researched and wrote reports on the alternative investments industry. Jeff also worked as a money management reporter at Dow Jones Newswires, where he covered the mutual fund industry.


Based in North Carolina, Jeff is a former Marine and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Central Michigan University.