Philipp Hildebrand, who resigned as head of the Swiss central bank in January over a currency trade by his wife Kashya, is joining BlackRock Inc. (BLK:US) as vice chairman.
Hildebrand will start in October and be based in London, Bobbie Collins, a spokeswoman for the world’s biggest asset manager, said yesterday. He’ll oversee the New York-based firm’s relationships with institutional clients outside the U.S. and report directly to Laurence D. Fink, the chairman and chief executive officer.
Hildebrand, who took over as president of the Swiss National Bank in January 2010 and helped toughen financial regulation, left on Jan. 9 over the purchase of $504,000 by Kashya in August, three weeks before the SNB imposed a currency cap. Lawmakers including Christoph Blocher from the populist Swiss People’s Party had called for his resignation. A probe concluded in April that Kashya Hildebrand’s transactions didn’t breach any regulations.
Philipp Hildebrand, a former hedge-fund partner, joined the central bank in 2003, becoming its youngest ever policy maker. His two-year term as president of the Zurich-based SNB was the shortest in the central bank’s history.
While at the helm of the SNB, he forced UBS AG and Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN) to boost capital buffers. He also lowered borrowing costs to zero and introduced the first currency ceiling since the 1970s to help protect the economy and fight deflation threats.
Fink, who co-founded BlackRock in 1988, built the firm into a $3.68 trillion asset manager through a series of acquisitions (BLK:US), including the 2006 purchase of Merrill Lynch & Co.’s investment unit. The firm bought Barclays Global Investors in December 2009, which made it the world’s biggest asset manager and added passive products such as the iShares exchange-traded funds to its offerings.
More recently, Fink has started a campaign to make BlackRock better known, and he has been asserting the firm’s views on pivotal issues including money-fund rules and the dangers of complex exchange-traded funds, sometimes at odds with firms such as Fidelity Investments and Societe Generale SA. He’s seeking to become a champion of corporate governance, urging 600 companies where BlackRock has its biggest stakes in to adopt shareholder-friendly practices.
BlackRock has also advised governments including those in Ireland and Greece since the start of the European sovereign debt crisis. The firm worked for other government agencies in Europe after the financial crisis in 2008, including Germany, Switzerland and Sweden. The unit that advises governments and financial institutions on hard-to-value assets is called BlackRock Solutions.
“Europe has been a particularly large area of growth for us,” Fink said, referring to interest in alternative products among institutional investors, during a conference call with analysts and investors in April.
Before joining the SNB, Hildebrand was chief investment officer at private banks Vontobel Group in Zurich and Union Bancaire Privee in Geneva. He worked for hedge fund Moore Capital Management LLC starting in 1995, where he was first in charge of strategy for Europe and fixed income before being made partner in 1997.
Hildebrand’s move to BlackRock was reported earlier by the Financial Times.
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