Career Stories

An Executive at BlackRock Turned His Passion for Cars Into a Renewable Energy Deal

two people standing next to an IONITY electric vehicle charging station
Stephane Tetot, Director of BlackRock Infrastructure, and Christian Schneider, a BlackRock associate.
| Courtesy of Christian Schneider

Christian Schneider knows firsthand that you don’t need to have decades of experience under your belt before you can make an impact—especially when you work for BlackRock.

Case in point: When Schneider, who is an associate within the firm’s Renewable Power Group, was reading a German car magazine—a reminder of home—he had an investment idea. That idea eventually led to BlackRock Alternatives’ recent venture with IONITY, Europe’s leading electric vehicle charging network, to drive the company’s growth and network expansion plans, as well as improve its customer charging experience. “BlackRock empowers each of us to think outside the box irrespective of the level of seniority,” Schneider says. “Everyone’s ideas are heard, and we’re all encouraged to think creatively and bring opportunities to the team.”

Here, Schneider talks about his career journey, what he did to make the IONITY investment deal happen, and why it’s an exciting time to work in the infrastructure space at BlackRock.

Tell us about your career journey, and what led to your job at BlackRock.

I completed several internships at various firms in different sectors such as insurance, venture capital, private equity, and infrastructure private equity, while I was getting my master’s degree at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. As I dove deeper into the world of investments, my interest in private equity grew, and I wanted to learn how to invest and manage private businesses and infrastructure assets. When looking for suitable opportunities, I was immediately intrigued by BlackRock Alternative Investors (BAI) and reached out to an alumnus from my university who worked at the firm to understand more about it. In the end, I received an invitation to join the Renewable Power Group, which is part of the Infrastructure team on the BlackRock Alternatives platform.

How did you know BlackRock would be a good fit?

I was convinced early on because of the people I spoke with during the interview process. I met most of the team I would be working with before I joined, and every interaction felt more like a discussion on all sorts of topics instead of an interview. My interviews were also accompanied by a modeling test, which I prepared for in advance.

One of the key reasons I wanted to start my career here was for the opportunity to support the energy transition globally while also growing my career and exploring new investment themes. This still is the case today and each year there are new areas to develop and invest in. I believe my personal and professional curiosity align well with the overall goal that we aim to achieve as a team and as a firm.

What are you responsible for in your role?

My responsibilities range from exploring new markets and industries to sourcing transactions, valuing new opportunities, and managing the execution of transactions, as well as the subsequent management and divestment of assets. This broad set of responsibilities provides opportunities to develop in areas of interest while also gaining a variety of skills. Ultimately investors need to be students of the market and constantly look for new investment opportunities, which in turn impacts each investor’s tasks and responsibilities.

Tell us about your involvement in BlackRock’s recent investment in IONITY. How did it happen?

I have a passion for cars. I read about IONITY through one of my favorite car magazines and learned about the growing need for charging infrastructure, as many people feel uncomfortable buying an electric vehicle due to the lack of access to places where one can charge them quickly and easily. I thought this was an area we should dig into as these cars run on renewable energy, which is what my team and I specialize in. After checking with my team, I decided to give it a shot: I reached out to IONITY management and sent them a note explaining what we do as renewable investors.

So now BlackRock has become the first company outside the automotive sector to join IONITY’s shareholders, which includes BMW Group, Ford Motor Company, Hyundai Motor Group with KIA, Mercedes-Benz AG, and Volkswagen Group with Audi and Porsche. It was great for us to have supported IONITY’s growth ambition while providing BlackRock’s clients with access to a company that is at the forefront of emission-free driving in Europe.

I recently relocated back to Germany, where IONITY headquarters are located, to be able to support the business more directly as well as spend more time in the German market and invest more deeply in Europe’s climate infrastructure.

Why does the work you’re doing in the Renewable Power Group at BlackRock excite and inspire you?

The Renewable Power Group (and BlackRock more broadly) is an incredible place to work for many reasons. The pure breadth of expertise that the various teams at BlackRock have means that you, as an investor on the private-market side, can get exposure and constantly learn. There is a real benefit in being part of a larger ecosystem and having access to research and insights that, on a stand-alone basis, would be difficult to get, as well as sharing knowledge and learning from other teams and people.

The Renewable Power Group is growing—as is BlackRock as a whole—so we're constantly opening new opportunities. Year over year, the tasks and objectives are changing and developing, and as an investor in that system, you can learn at a pace that is quite unique. Fundamentally, BlackRock supports the goal of net zero emissions on behalf of our clients. I feel strongly connected to that mission, and, along with my team, I can make a real impact at scale, which motivates me daily.

In what ways does BlackRock encourage you to be entrepreneurial?

We have a flat organizational structure, so everyone’s ideas are heard. As with the example of the electric vehicle charging and IONITY, we’re all encouraged to think creatively and bring opportunities to the team. The world is shifting constantly, especially in climate infrastructure, which means someone who only started yesterday can make the same impact as someone who started 30 years ago in the renewable space. Of course, there are lessons that can only be learned from experience, but it’s a privilege to be able to look for the next big thing.

Describe BlackRock’s role within the alternative investment industry in Europe. Why is it an exciting time to work in this space?

The alternative investment industry in general is incredibly exciting as it gives one the opportunity to shape businesses and sectors with a longer-term mindset compared to traditional investing. Every day brings new challenges as you are acting as an employee, board member, entrepreneur, consultant, financial analyst, and researcher, and most times, your week will shake out differently from what you planned it to look like. I personally find the challenge extremely rewarding, and it is time well spent as it always serves a greater purpose and allows me to grow.

In its capacity as a financial advisor, BlackRock can make a substantial impact on our society and communities through alternative investments. Given that I focus on climate infrastructure daily, our work and the capital we deploy has a direct and measurable impact on the energy mix in different countries, and I do believe that BlackRock is a great place to serve this purpose.

What skills and traits does it take to succeed on the BlackRock Alternatives team?

There are many skills and traits required that one develops over time, and this can look different for each person. Fundamentally, however, people tend to be highly analytical and structured, have a high attention to detail, and cope well with stress and uncertainty. Also, investing and making the decision to invest is often a long—and at times frustrating—process, which requires stamina and grit, especially on the equity side. I do think that in the end you need to have fun at work and be able to work well with other teams, which is the part I enjoy the most.

Updated 5/19/2022