Philipp Hildebrand is a prominent Swiss banker and financial leader known for his influential roles at major financial institutions and his advocacy for sustainable finance. As the current Vice Chairman at BlackRock, Hildebrand oversees the world’s largest asset manager’s sustainability efforts and integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into its investment strategies and stewardship priorities.

Early Life and Education

Born in 1964 in Switzerland, Philipp Hildebrand grew up with a keen interest in global economics and markets. He studied at the University of Toronto, graduating with a BA in Economics and Political Science in 1988. Hildebrand went on to earn a Master’s degree in International Relations from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva in 1990.

Career Beginnings in Finance

After completing his education, Hildebrand began his career in finance, landing an internship at Swiss Bank Corporation (SBC) in 1990. He was hired full-time at SBC the following year, working in the bank’s New York and Montreal offices in foreign exchange and fixed income trading. Hildebrand quickly rose through the ranks, becoming the Head of Institutional Asset Management for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at SBC in 1998.

When SBC merged with UBS in 1998, Hildebrand took on leadership roles at the combined bank, including serving as the Global Head of Institutional Money Market & Foreign Exchange and Member of the Executive Board of UBS Asset Management. He gained recognition as a strategic thinker who could take an international perspective on financial markets.

Leader of the Swiss National Bank

In 2003, Hildebrand joined the central banking world, becoming a Member of the Governing Board of the Swiss National Bank (SNB). He was appointed Vice Chairman just two years later in 2005. In this role, Hildebrand was a key policymaker during the global financial crisis, helping the SNB navigate market volatility.

Hildebrand was elevated to Chairman of the SNB Governing Board in 2010. As Chairman, he introduced a new monetary policy approach that capped the appreciation of the Swiss franc to stabilize the currency. Hildebrand also implemented negative interest rates to discourage investors from parking assets in Swiss francs during periods of market uncertainty. These bold moves reinforced Switzerland’s safe haven status.

However, Hildebrand’s tenure as SNB Chairman ended abruptly in January 2012 over a controversial currency trade made by his wife in 2011. Though Hildebrand was cleared of wrongdoing, he resigned to uphold the credibility of the SNB. Nevertheless, many experts praised his leadership during the turbulent early 2010s.

Shaping Sustainable Finance at BlackRock

After leaving the SNB, Hildebrand turned to the private sector. He worked as an advisor to large hedge funds and continued to promote policy solutions to improve the global financial system’s stability and growth outlook. In 2014, the World Economic Forum appointed Hildebrand as a Member of the Global Agenda Council on the Global Financial System.

In early 2016, BlackRock brought on Hildebrand to serve on its Executive Committee as Vice Chairman. In this role, he has focused on driving the adoption of sustainable investment approaches and constructive engagement with companies to address ESG risks and opportunities.

Championing ESG Integration

As Vice Chairman, Hildebrand has been one of the chief architects behind BlackRock’s increased prioritization of sustainability. In his 2020 letter to CEOs, BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink highlighted the climate crisis as a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects, signaling a major shift toward ESG integration in BlackRock’s investment processes and stewardship. Fink’s annual letter reflected Hildebrand’s influential sustainability perspective.

In January 2021, BlackRock outlined plans to support the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner. The firm asked companies to disclose emissions reduction plans, committed to sustainable indexes, and vowed to vote against management for ESG failures. Again, Hildebrand’s commitment to sustainable capitalism was evident.

As co-head of the firm’s Investment Stewardship team, Hildebrand ensures BlackRock actively uses proxy voting rights to incentivize sustainable business practices. In 2022, BlackRock voted against over 4,000 company directors for climate risk oversight shortfalls.

Public Advocacy for Sustainability

In addition to driving change from within BlackRock, Hildebrand regularly speaks at high-profile events and contributes to publications to promote sustainable finance as a public good. He has presented at the Singapore Fintech Festival, World Economic Forum annual meetings in Davos, and United Nations climate conferences.

Hildebrand co-chairs the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on the New Agenda for Fragility and Resilience. He also sits on the Board of the Institute of International Finance, which seeks to find collective solutions to challenges in the global financial system.

In a [2022 speech]( debate-april2022.pdf) at the Oxford Union, Hildebrand argued financial services firms have an obligation to align investments with sustainability goals to meet the scale of challenges like climate change. He believes the financial sector can enable the transition to a low-carbon future.

Leadership Philosophy and Approach

Throughout his career, Hildebrand has exemplified progressive leadership in complex global roles. Several key philosophies and values characterize his leadership approach.

Strategic Thinker

Hildebrand has been praised for taking a strategic, big picture view of complex issues in financial markets and policymaking. This mindset was critical to developing innovative solutions during the financial crisis as SNB Chairman. At BlackRock, he spearheaded a long-term strategic pivot toward sustainability across its business.

Commitment to Public Service

While Hildebrand has worked extensively in the private sector, he places high importance on financial services benefiting the public good. This motivated his shift to central banking and his current focus on sustainable finance that supports a just transition. He urges the finance industry to be a positive force on society.

Independence and Ethics

Hildebrand built a reputation for independence and integrity through his willingness to implement politically unpopular policies at the SNB that he believed would maximize long-term stability and prosperity. The currency intervention faced criticism but proved effective. Hildebrand prides himself on doing what he feels is best for the system rather than bending to pressure.

Coalition Builder

Hildebrand recognizes that advancing an agenda requires building coalitions across government, business, and civil society. He regularly engages with diverse stakeholders and looks for common ground to drive change on shared priorities like sustainability and financial inclusion.

International Cooperation

With an international upbringing and career, Hildebrand believes solutions to global challenges like financial crises and climate change require cooperation across borders. He argues for countries to align policy frameworks and standardize sustainable finance reporting.

Legacy and Impact on Sustainable Finance

While he has faced controversy at points in his career, Hildebrand’s overall body of work has left an indelible mark on sustainable finance and investment. As Vice Chairman of BlackRock, he sits at the center of the pivot toward stakeholder capitalism in one of finance’s most influential institutions.

Hildebrand’s leadership in integrating ESG factors into investment processes and stewardship will drive capital toward more sustainable enterprises. His advocacy gives voice to the role finance can play in achieving global goals. And Hildebrand’s strategic mindset ensures sustainability is not just a fad but central to BlackRock’s identity.

Looking ahead, Hildebrand will continue to leverage his platform to mainstream sustainable investment and reform finance in service of economic, social and environmental progress. Though much work remains, his impact is undeniable in catalyzing the investment paradigm shift toward responsible stewardship.

Philipp Hildebrand stands among the most farsighted and high-profile leaders guiding the financial services industry into a more sustainable future. His unique international career and pioneering influence on sustainable finance practices position him as a transformative figure at the intersection of finance, policy and sustainability.