Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

Jochen Wermuth Inspires Students with a Career Aimed at Climate Impact

As a Brown alumnus and environmental champion, Jochen Wermuth shared his many insights about impact investing, ESG, and more in a keynote address at the student-run “Future of Sustainable Investing” conference held at Brown earlier this year.

Jochen graduated from Brown in 1992, earning three degrees in four years: BAs in math and economics and a Master’s in economics. Jochen credits Brown with propelling his career, which got a jumpstart in 1993 when he was selected to serve as a financial advisor to Russia’s then-president, Boris Yeltsin, under the auspices of Russia’s Ministry of Finance. 

In the years to come, Jochen built a successful career as an investment banker in Germany, but he was always drawn to work that would address the many types of environmental health inequities that he witnessed at home and abroad. In Germany, the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster drove home the importance of science-based protections for public health. But much later, it was a conversation with Nobel Prize Laureate Alexander Prokhorov that convinced him to reconfigure his personal investments and his professional activities. 

“Mr. Prokhorov said, ‘You could do something useful with your life, like lifting two billion people out of poverty [with solar technology],’” he recounted. “I then decided to build a number of asset management firms to raise more capital, and with that capital, promote companies that will help reverse climate change. I’ve been doing that for 20 years.”

Wermuth takes an expansive view of sustainable investing, deploying funds across a broad class of assets including bonds, equities, venture private equity, infrastructure, and assets such as forestry, wind, or solar. He is laser focused on climate change and particularly excited about venture funds, which support companies that could grow exponentially to have a transformative impact on climate change.  Wermuth’s investments have excluded fossil fuels companies, and he has worked hard to accelerate divestment from fossil fuels with work on the global Divest Invest movement

Jochen was thrilled to see the student momentum behind the FSIcon event, and recommends that those interested in learning more about sustainable and impact investing look into organizations like GIIN (Global Impact Investing Network). He also praised student-led initiatives like Brown’s Socially Responsible Investment Fund (SRIF), noting that “learning by doing is always best.” 

As for FSIcon, Jochen has big plans: “I’d be very happy to come back home and help drive the effort for this conference to be really global.” He also expressed excitement about the new IBES Strategic Plan, which aims to build out curriculum and related programming focused on sustainable finance and investing. 

Following his keynote address in Sayles Hall, Jochen reminisced about his ECON 101 class with Professor Rajiv Vohra, held in Sayles Hall more than three decades ago. Professor Vohra still teaches economics to classrooms full of Brown students, inspiring and equipping the next generation of leaders who will follow Jochen’s lifelong path of innovation and impact. 

Marina Du, a member of the Brown class of 2023 concentrating in applied math and economics, provided reporting for this article by interviewing Jochen during his visit to Brown. Incidentally, she took Prof. Vohra’s Microeconomics class last fall. 

Visit to learn more about the 2023 conference.