Global Alumni Profile: Jacob R. Hidrowoh

Nathan Rufo
November 19, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jacob Hidrowoh didn’t plan on his career journey turning out the way it did. A young man from Quito, Ecuador, Hidrowoh came to Penn State in 2014 on a national Ecuadorian scholarship to study Earth science and policy, a new major at the time.

Hidrowoh now works at a bank in Ecuador called Produbanco — Grupo Promerica. His job is in retail banking — specifically, in business intelligence and data analysis. What drew him to Produbanco, however, was the link between sustainability and the banking sector.

“The HR (human resources) vice president of the company asked me during my entry interview, ‘Jacob, what are you doing here?’” Hidrowoh recalled. “And I was happy to explain it to him.”

“There is a direct link between my EMS background, which taught me ‘we need to take care of this planet,’ and the banking sector, which is the motor of the planet’s economy,” said Hidrowoh. “Produbanco takes sustainability and contributing to sustainable development very seriously. It’s an honor to work here.”

Hidrowoh references a 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility Issue published by the bank in 2018, which laid out the bank’s philosophy and goals. These include working in alignment of the U.N.’s Global Compact Initiative, by adopting sustainability into the business model. Which translates into innovative products and services, and taking social and environmental risk factors into account for the bank´s financing decisions.

While Hidrowoh’s environmental passions may be obvious from his time at Penn State, his education at the University also contributes to his work in the banking sector, as well. He credits a geosciences course on climate risk analysis with Professor Klaus Keller for opening his eyes to concepts like big data, statistics, deep uncertainty, and decision-making processes.

“I think I got a 'C' in that class, but I learned more there than almost any other class I took,” he said. “Courses like these have shaped my career. They give me a unique perspective in the banking sector.”

Hidrowoh was also a program intern in the Office of Development, working with the EMS Development team to raise funds.

“I was in love with Penn State the minute I stepped on campus, but that experience sealed the deal,” he said. “I got to see just how far the University reaches outside of campus. And it really instilled in me the American value of philanthropy — Penn State alumni were always asking how they could help more.”

Now that he is a Penn State alumnus himself, Hidrowoh takes the philosophy — and responsibility — seriously.

“It’s incredible to be a part of such a powerful community,” he said. “Being a part of the alumni network has helped with my career — it was Penn State alumni who told me about Produbanco in the first place — but that’s not the most important part. The most important part of being an alumni is giving back and getting involved.” Hidrowoh recently got accepted into EMS’ alumni mentorship program.

Hidrowoh recalls a quote from one of his mentors, Paul Clifford, chief executive officer of the Penn State Alumni Association, who said, “Your Penn State degree is like a stock. No one cares when you graduated — they only care about how Penn State is doing in the ‘eternal moment of now.’”

“It’s our responsibility to keep the Penn State name highly respected, always,” said Hidrowoh. “We can do this by setting an example, by giving back, and by using our time and effort for good causes.”

Hidrowoh lives this out, day by day. He chose to work at Produbanco in large part due to their belief in environmental responsibility. More and more, people are choosing their careers based not only on the amount of money they can make, but on the values of the company they work for, said Hidrowoh. Consumers, as well, are becoming more and more aware of the impacts of their purchases.

“Businesses have to look past profit or return on investment — that’s only a short-term view,” said Hidrowoh. “We need to figure out how to create profit while being socially responsible. This is not an opinion. There is no profit in wildfires, pollution, crime and poverty, and there does not exist a place in the world where we can continue to do ‘business-as-usual.’

“It’s unwise to think that paying taxes is enough,” he added. “We have to take care of our communities and treat people and the environment with respect.”

If that sounds like the basis of a campaign platform, you’re not that far off. At an early age, Hidrowoh’s goal was to be the president of Ecuador.

“Some people say not to share your goals,” he said. “I don’t believe in that. I believe that if you want to get somewhere, you have to be honest — with others and yourself — about where you want to go.”

Now, he said, his goals have shifted. He still wants to be president, but not of Ecuador — of Produbanco.

“I feel like I’ve found my place and that I don’t need to bounce around,” he said. “I look at everything the bank has done to incorporate sustainability into its business model — working with local indigenous  communities who safeguard a unique ecosystems by giving them financial incentives with the sole purpose of water conservation, providing financial literacy training, emphasizing on gender diversity of their c-suite — and I become convinced that this is the place for me.”

“My biggest passion is to be of service,” Hidrowoh said. “I am here to serve. My father gave me the biggest inheritance anyone can receive — values and love. His unconditional love has allowed me to be the person I am today. I’m going to do many things with that strong north star. And I will always be eternally grateful for my time at Penn State.”

Last Updated November 20, 2020