Back in 2011, Richard Prager was a lonely voice on the subject of outmoded fixed-income market structures and their attendant liquidity concerns. Now much of what he was saying is conventional wisdom. That’s a testament to the vision of this top buy-side trading executive, who wields the influence of the biggest money manager of all: $4.6 trillion-in-assets BlackRock. “There were a lot of naysayers when it came to what we wanted to do with client-crossing and alternative trading networks — and even whether there was a liquidity challenge,” the 55-year-old recalls. “Now folks are saying there is a permanent change in the liquidity condition and behavior does need to change.” The head of BlackRock’s trading, liquidity and investments platform — his role expanded in February to include investments business management and product strategy – believes the alarms sounded on bond market liquidity may have been overblown. But they did generate urgency for solutions, and Prager has helped lead the charge. BlackRock has partnered with MarketAxess Holdings (see Nicholas Themelis, No. 13) and its Open Trading initiative, bringing trades from BlackRock and other firms using its Aladdin technology onto an “all-to-all” network of investors and other market participants. “That’s material — a secular change,” says Prager, who has a Duke University BS in zoology and joined BlackRock in 2009 after eight years with Bank of America Corp. and a career on the sell side. As institutional interest in fixed-income exchange-traded funds, including BlackRock’s iShares, has surged, the firm has worked with Bloomberg, Tradeweb Markets and others on data analysis standards to facilitate the trading. During last August’s market volatility, daily volumes on many of BlackRock’s biggest ETFs exceeded $1 billion.