No. 36: Allen Saunders

Firm: UBS

AUM: $557.09 million

Location: New York

Age: 36

Note: This profile is part of a special series devoted to On Wall Street’s Top 40 Under 40 ranking for 2012. Every day we take a look at an advisor who made the list to find out the secrets of their success.

Allen Saunders’ career on Wall Street began as a pet project. “While I was an undergraduate in college,” Saunders says, “I was running one of the largest distributors of pet food and supplies in the Northeast, along with a retail store. I was putting in sweat equity, in return for some ownership in the company.”

Someone running a substantial business is bound to make contacts, and that’s what happened to Saunders. “I met someone who was an advisor at a major firm,” Saunders says. “He told me, ‘I think you’d be great as an advisor.” Soon after graduation, Saunders joined that firm in its associates program.

Since changing careers, Saunders has seen significant changes in this line of work. “We used to rely heavily on separately managed accounts,” he says. “Now my team runs our clients’ portfolios. That gives us more control, and we can be more nimble. With separately managed accounts, divesting something can take a few days.”

Saunders says that his advisory practice has added breadth and depth over the years. “We were more focused on investments,” he says, “but now we dig a lot deeper and do more financial planning. We analyze clients’ insurance policies, for instance, and work with them on their estate plans.” Recently, Saunders and his team have been increasingly involved with clients’ gifting and sophisticated trust strategies, as possible tax law changes approach.

“We’ve been talking with clients about GRATs and irrevocable life insurance trusts and intentionally defective grantor trusts,” Saunders says. “We’ve also discussed gifting, to use the gift tax exemption in effect for 2012. Some clients have been reluctant to make gifts but after our conversation they’ve understood the advantages. Some clients have decided to make very large gifts.”

Regardless of whether tax law changes are imminent, Saunders and his team call clients monthly. “That may be the biggest thing that differentiates us,” Saunders says. “Good or bad, our clients always know what's going on."