• Title: CEO, UBS Group Americas
  • Time in Current Position: 4 years
  • Time with Firm: 4 years
  • Previous Employer/Title: Vice Chairman and President, Global Wealth Management, Merrill Lynch & Co.
  • Years in the industry: 31
  • First Job in Industry: Associate, Sales & Trading Program, Merrill Lynch & Co.
  • Alma Mater: BA, Bethany College; MBA, Texas Christian University

What's the current state of the wealth management industry?
BOB McCANN: The wealth management industry, broadly, is recovering nicely from the financial crisis. Businesses are bedding down. I think there was a great deal of turmoil between 2009 and 2012 at Bank of America as the Merrill Lynch acquisition was being digested. There was also a great deal of turmoil at Morgan Stanley, bedding down the joint venture, until probably six months ago. And there's been a different flavor of indigestion, but indigestion nonetheless, at Wells Fargo.

What do you think their indigestion was?
BM: Well, I'd say they're an amalgamation of different businesses, and they put themselves in the center of the country. It's FAs who come from different firms with different training and different styles. How do you bring that together? And Wells Fargo is a large organization. I don't mean just a wealth management organization—it's a big company. At UBS, we have our own turnaround story.

What's that story?
BM: Four years ago at this time, we had 16% FA turnover. We had negative net; the business was losing $150 million. And we turned all three of those metrics around. But the most important thing is that we made UBS a cool place to work again. People like working here—FA turnover is at record lows. Our strategy is very clear: We are client focused and FA centric. We're not focused on other channels. Our marginal investment is going to be made in the top 25 markets in the country, and it's going to be made to attract a high net worth and ultrahigh net worth investor. Wealth management is the core of the company.

Is that a new realization for UBS?
BM: It is one that was stated directly for the first time last October.

How have the scandals that UBS faced in the past couple of years impacted morale and the ability to turn it into a "cool place to work?"
BM: When I first got here, I would go to a meeting with FAs and clients, and I did feel the need to apologize. I also think it was hard on the employees having to read about their company in that way. Some FAs would have liked for the firm to change its name. We never considered it. And I don't get any of those emails anymore. Now when we walk into a meeting with an ultrahigh net worth client, I'm proud to put down my UBS business card. Now the brand helps us win business.

Who owns the client at UBS?
BM: The advisor does. When you hire an FA from another wirehouse firm, what percentage of their assets are brought to you? About 85%. Why? It's because of the financial crisis. Every large firm damaged its brand and its reputation, and what clients say is, "UBS, you didn't get me through the crisis. Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, you didn't get me through the crisis. My advisor did." The advisor owns the client relationship, and I'm in business with the financial advisor. Now, when I first got here, we were pretty bad business partners because we had a lot of problems in the company. The reputation was damaged. There had been a bit of a leadership void for a while. We weren't very good. I think we're pretty good business partners now, and because of that, I can be demanding. I think the team and I have earned that right. I need FAs who will produce a million dollars a year, not $500,000. I need FAs who are going to be working hard and not sitting on their book playing it out.

How is UBS handling the competitive threat from RIAs?
BM: Many people in my job are dismissive of the RIA and the independent channel. I'm not. You just study the numbers and see how they've changed over time, and you would be a fool to dismiss them. I don't spend nights worrying about it, and I don't lose many FAs to that channel. When I do, they're far below average productivity and asset size for the firm. But when you stand back and look at the trends, you see our channel shrinking a bit, and independent growing, and you can't ignore it. I periodically meet with advisors in that channel because I want to understand why they are having success.

What's their competitive advantage? What are they selling?
BM: They sell their independence. They sell their local presence. They sell that they're not affiliated with a manufacturer or products. They say, "I'm going to see you around town. I'm going to care."

What do you take away from that?
BM: All relationships are local. You just can't dismiss that local presence. I think about that in case there's a day down the road—and it would be far down the road—when we want to establish an independent channel. It is not in our strategic plan for 2014 or 2015, but we think about it because we want to be bigger in the wealth management business in the United States. And there is no acquisition we could do where I could go out and get 4,000 good FAs, put them on our platform and turn them into great ones. You run into limitations as to how fast you can grow. So I want to understand that independent channel. I want to understand the people in it, and I want to be informed and have a point of view on the channel in case someday I will look at it strategically.

What is the most important quality in an FA?
BM: The ability to identify, develop and grow a relationship. Great FAs have the ability to get to the right people and develop the relationship and a bond of trust. Great FAs at my prior firm and this firm have that ability.



  • Number of Financial Advisors: 7,099
  • Total AUM: $892 billion*
  • Average Employee Advisor 12-Month Trailing Production: $1.1 million
  • Average Employee Advisor AUM: $126 million
  • % Women Advisors (Not including registered associates):e Not provided
  • % Minority Advisors: Not provided

*Includes domestic US business, Canadian business, and international business booked in the US.
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