Feel small, play big

Our wealth management business in the Americas achieves record profit after implementing a new operating model focused on clients, advisor retention and organic growth.

20 Mar 2018

Tom Naratil (right), Co-President Global Wealth Management and President Americas, and Brian Hull, Head of Wealth Management USA, talk about the future of our US wealth management business.

Since 2016, Wealth Management Americas (WMA) has been undergoing a reinvention of sorts – one designed to enhance focus on both clients and advisors. “Our clients’ need for personalized advice has never been greater,” said Tom Naratil, Co-President Global Wealth Management and President UBS Americas. “We must make the most of our unique opportunity to feel small and play big – to combine the agility of a boutique firm with the capabilities of the only global wealth manager.” After the multi-year turnaround led by Bob McCann (now Chairman UBS Americas), the business would now focus on bringing decision-making closer to clients and retaining key advisor talent rather than relying on recruiting to fuel growth.

“Our organic growth strategy depends on our ability to work with our existing advisors to help them be even more productive and go even deeper with our clients,” insisted Brian Hull, Head of Wealth Management USA. In 2017, WMA achieved a record of roughly USD 1.4 billion in profit before tax. Invested assets climbed to a record of more than USD 1.2 trillion. And our advisors continue to lead the industry in productivity. But the journey from idea to implementation to transformation has not been a simple one. The approach focused on four key pillars.

Tom Naratil and Brian Hull meet regularly with financial advisors and field leaders to discuss ways to continually enhance how we serve clients.

Identifying the priorities

WMA began to shift away from recruiting as its primary growth strategy and to instead focus more on retaining and supporting existing advisors. A commitment to a 40% reduction in recruiting meant more resources could be devoted to coaching advisors and delivering tools and solutions that drive organic growth. Additionally, a new, simpler compensation plan for advisors is more transparent and is based on rewarding productivity, growth and loyalty. In just 18 months, the cumulative result has been lower attrition, higher productivity and a renewed commitment to making UBS the best place for advisors to join, grow with and retire from.

Empowering the right people

The Executive Committee also de-layered management hierarchies and began pushing decision-making closer to clients. WMA restructured the Client Advisory Group into four divisions and 43 markets across the region. That change made it easier to shift the focus to empowering branch managers with the authority and accountability to make important decisions and to be more responsive to our clients and advisors.

Leveraging the best tools

WMA made a commitment to increase its investment in next-generation technology, both on the front and the back end. For example, in 2016 UBS formed a strategic alliance with SigFig, a leading wealth management technology company, in order to create customized digital tools that will help advisors provide advice on assets more efficiently. And, because we want our clients and advisors to more easily access our full capabilities, we introduced more banking, planning and technology support in the field.

We must make the most of our unique opportunity to feel small and play big – to combine the agility of a boutique firm with the capabilities of the only global wealth manager.

Tom Naratil

Seeing the bigger picture

Two years ago, we began to more closely align Wealth Management and Wealth Management Americas. On 1 February 2018, the businesses merged into a unified Global Wealth Management division, under the leadership of Co-Presidents Tom Naratil and Martin Blessing. The result is a wealth manager that today is better equipped to serve clients with global perspectives, better able to leverage the strength of its CHF 2.3 trillion invested asset base and poised to realize greater synergies across the business.

It’s been a busy two years for the wealth management business in the Americas. However, the changes are paying off – transforming it into a more client-focused and advisor-centric operation with a small-firm feel, even as we move forward on a bigger, global stage.


Bringing people together

UBS helps clients to advance their philanthropic projects by compounding the power of capital with organized, purposeful collaboration.

Since early 2015, UBS has been bringing together families that have the means and the passion for effecting change in the autism community with a network of entrepreneurs, experts and organizations that share this goal. Fueled by the commitment of UBS clients Billy and Jennifer Frist, this initiative has progressed – growing to include a community of over 20 philanthropic families across the globe and involving organizations that support people affected by autism in different ways, from scientific research to employment programs.

Capital is not always enough

In 2017, the success of this philanthropic community continued to grow. Together with the Frists, Vanderbilt University and The Precisionists, we launched The Nashville Model, a program designed to improve employment opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum. There was also significant support for autism research, including the Frists’ USD 20 million investment in Curemark, a biopharmaceutical company investigating methods of reducing the symptoms of autism. Additionally, we hosted the third annual UBS Global Autism Innovation Roundtable in Jupiter, Florida, at the Els Center of Excellence, established by professional golfer Ernie Els and the Els for Autism Foundation. As a financial institution, we, of course, know the importance of capital. However, we also understand that, when it comes to effecting change, capital is not always enough. To be most effective, philanthropy requires collaboration – and to that end, we have worked to connect like-minded people and organizations for the best possible results.