We have a team of highly-qualified, dedicated individuals who bring a breadth and depth of experience to the Foundation.
Phyllis Costanza was appointed CEO of the UBS Optimus Foundation in 2011. Optimus is dedicated to helping UBS clients fund impactful philanthropic programs that improve children's lives globally. She has been instrumental in reshaping the foundation's strategy and introducing innovative financing vehicles, like the first Development Impact Bond. Prior to UBS, she was a senior executive and Board Member of the Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), a UK-based philanthropic organization, linked to the hedge fund TCI. Phyllis also has more than a decade of experience as a management consultant, and also worked in the public sector as the Manhattan Representative for New York State Governor Mario Cuomo, advising on policy and politics in Manhattan. She is a Board member of Power of Nutrition and Micronutrient Initiative and she holds a Master's in Public Policy from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
John Fairhurst was appointed Executive Director of Programs in July 2015. Prior to this he was the COO at the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), a Geneva based organisation focusing on improving nutrition in developing countries, primarily through public private partnership and increasing the impact of markets that the poor access.
His career has bridged the private sector and not-for-profit sectors and his drive has been to bring a greater convergence of the value that both provide. He helped establish and manage the program portfolio of the largest private foundation on international development in the UK, the Children's Investment Fund (CIFF). He has worked for Oxfam as a Regional Manager in East Africa overseeing development and humanitarian programs in an area covering from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Eritrea, as well as working as the Country Director in Afghanistan, and in Northern Sri Lanka. He was also a board member of the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), a major mines clearance organisation.
Nina Hoppe joined the UBS Optimus Foundation in July 2012 as Deputy CEO. For 10 years, Nina has been working for UBS in Zurich in different positions including Risk and Business Management, Relationship Management and Investor Relations. Prior to this she worked for 5 years in London as an analyst in the M&A Department as well as an Associate in a small Private Equity boutique. She holds a dual German-French Masters degree in Business Administration from ESCP Europe. Nina speaks several languages including German, English, French and Spanish.
Ian Welle-Skitt joined the UBS Optimus Foundation as Head of Communication in May 2015. Prior to this he was Head of Writing and Editorial Delivery within UBS Communications & Branding. Before moving to Switzerland he worked in political and government communications in London. Prior to this Ian worked in the legal and finance industries in the UK. Ian holds a BA in History, LLB Law, and a BSc in Finance from the University of Ulster, Thames Valley University, and the University of Manchester (UMIST), respectively. Ian also holds an MA in International History and Politics form the London School of Economics.
Marcel Braun is the Program Director at the UBS Optimus Foundation. He previously worked for several years as a "Corporate Donations Expert" at F.Hoffmann La-Roche, during which time he carried out numerous CSR activities and also supported the global donation activities of the company and affiliated foundations, including as a member of the Foundation Board. As a qualified pharmacist, he has acquired extensive experience of health projects around the world. For two years, he worked as the National Pharmacist for the Australian Development Aid Service on the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. As part of a mandate from the Swiss Tropical and Public-Health Institute, he monitored vaccination data for GAVI and the implementation of Malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB projects in various African countries for the Global Fund. Pharmacists without Borders sent him to Tajikistan and he worked in hospitals in the Mekong Delta for the Novartis Employees Foundation BASAID. As a member of the Medicine workgroup of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA), he made himself available for deployment, for example in the case of the earthquakes in Nepal in 2015. He worked for Ernst & Young as a Forensic Auditor for five years, investigating white-collar crime and corruption. Marcel Braun gained an Executive MBA from the University of St. Gallen and completed a Postgraduate Diploma on Developing Countries (NADEL) at the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich.
Paulus recently joined UBS Optimus Foundation as a Program Director, where he is responsible for the organization's work in the education space.
Previously, Paulus was the Investment Director at Virgin Unite, where his main responsibilities included the management of the global investment and grant portfolios, the organization’s overall impact measurement, and performance reporting to all stakeholders. Paulus also developed the strategy and business plan for the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship and launched centres in Johannesburg, South Africa and Montego Bay, Jamaica. Before joining Virgin Unite, working for the Clinton Foundation and Elton John AIDS Foundation in Tanzania, Paulus developed the concept, strategy and implementation plan for a national HIV testing campaign for youth.
Prior to focusing on the Third Sector, Paulus had a career in Corporate Finance and Private Equity with Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, Gilbert Global Equity Partners and Xchanging, focusing on debt offerings, M&A, investments and new product developments. Paulus has a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Michigan and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School.
Guangshen Gao joined the UBS Optimus Foundation in 2014 as a Project Manager based in Hong Kong. Prior to joining UBS Optimus Foundation, he worked for a Chinese family to manage its family foundation since 2009. He was China Rural Education Manager in an international development agency from 2005 to 2009. Before his career in development field, he served for Chinese government for 7 years and a state owned energy enterprise for 2 years. He got his MPA degree from Columbia University in 2005 as a Ford Foundation International Fellow.
Martina Gaus-Keller is responsible for Performance Measurement & Evaluation at UBS Optimus Foundation. She brings 10 years of experience in strategy consulting and project management having worked for UBS Wealth Management's internal Business Consulting and prior to this, for the healthcare practice of Booz & Co.. She holds a Master in Business Administration from the University of St. Gallen HSG and obtained there a PhD in Organizational Behavior in 2008.
Patricia Lannen is a Program Director in the field of child protection. Prior to working with UBS Optimus Foundation, she worked with children and adults on issues of psychosocial oncology at the Harvard Medical School's Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. She has extensive experience in the coordination of large, multi-site projects with vulnerable populations. These projects have included epidemiological research as well as intervention and prevention aims. Since joining the UBS Optimus Foundation in 2008, she has coordinated the Foundation's global Optimus Study on child sexual victimization. This large initiative aims to prevent incidences of and improve services for sexually abused children in different countries across the globe. She is also responsible for a variety of other evidence-based violence prevention programs in Switzerland and internationally. Patricia holds a PhD in Psychology.
Ann-Marie Sevcsik is a Program Director at the UBS Optimus Foundation in the field of health. She brings nearly 20 years of experience in biomedical research, with the past 10 years engaged in research, development, and access issues related to bringing relevant health tools to improve the health of vulnerable populations worldwide. Prior to joining the UBS Optimus Foundation, Ann-Marie worked at the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative which develops and makes available new treatments for neglected diseases, including the first anti-malarial treatment by a public-private partnership. Educated at Harvard and the University of California, San Francisco, she has worked with a wide range of organizations – including the World Health Organization, multinational pharmaceuticals like GSK Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, biotechnology companies like Amgen and Chiron, and patient advocacy organizations – and on projects in more than 15 countries including Argentina, Brazil, DR Congo, Egypt, India, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia and Spain.
Maya Ziswiler is Program Director in the field of education. She joined the Foundation from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria where she was responsible for managing public-private partnerships such as (RED) or the MAC AIDS Fund to provide treatment, care and support for HIV/AIDS and malaria programs in Africa and the Caribbean. Previously, Maya worked for UNICEF in Peru, building partnerships to support early childhood development programs there. She also brings valuable project management experience from Procter & Gamble in the Middle East and non-profit consulting experience from China. Maya holds degrees in International Development from McGill University in Canada, and an MBA from the University of Geneva. She speaks English, French, Spanish, German and some Mandarin.
Client relations and business operations
Fatiah Bürkner joined UBS Optimus Foundation as Director of Client Relations in January 2014 to build relationships with donors of the foundation. Prior to this, she worked for 6 years at Lombard Odier, a Swiss Private Bank, where she helped to establish the philanthropy service in Switzerland and spent 4 years as Relationship Manager and Head of Marketing & Philanthropy at Lombard Odier Trust Japan. See also conducted various capacity building seminars for the Japan Foundation Centre across Japan. Prior to this, she worked 7 years in the philanthropy sector in Germany as a Project Director at the Centre for Social Investments of the University of Heidelberg as well as a Project Manager at the Bertelsmann Foundation.
Fatiah holds a Master's degree in Japanese Studies and Art History from University of Bonn and an MBA from Berlin School of Economics. She speaks German, English and Japanese.
Dragana joined the UBS Optimus Foundation as Management Support Officer in July 2014. She started her professional career by finishing the commercial apprenticeship with UBS in 2003 and has been working for several years as a Client Advisor as well as an Assistant to Client Advisors in the Private Clients segment. In December 2010, she joined the Family Services team which is part of Global UHNW and provides specialist advisory services to UHNW clients worldwide in the areas of Philanthropy Services & Values-Based Investing, Family Office, Family Governance and Art and help them to conceive, set up and monitor effective philanthropic and impact investing solutions.
Since November 2013 Dragana worked as a Process and Risk Specialist within Wealth Management Global Emerging Markets where she was supporting a Desk Head in process and risk related topics. Dragana completed her bachelor degree in Business Communications in 2012.
Claire Freymond joined UBS Optimus Foundation as Client Relations Manager in April 2015 to build relationships with donors of the foundation.
Prior to joining UBS Optimus Foundation, Claire worked in the business development team for a medical device company in the French part of Switzerland.
Claire holds a master's degree in International Relations from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. She speaks several languages including German, English, French, Italian and Spanish.
Pierre-Guillaume Kopp joined the UBS Optimus Foundation from the corporate communications department of a Swiss private bank. He has worked in the communications industry for several years and gained further experience in the corporate media relations department of an aeronautical company in Germany. Pierre-Guillaume studied Political Science, Modern History and International Law in Zurich and in Munich. He obtained a PhD in Political Science from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich in 2011.
Catherine joined the UBS Optimus Foundation in July 2014 as a Business Analyst to support the Foundation's activities in the areas of finance and controlling, risk management and legal agreements. She joined from UBS Asset Management in Zurich, where she was a Credit Officer for two years, responsible for analyzing, evaluating and approving risks, setting-up new processes as well as implementing a new IT system.
She started her career as a graduate trainee with JP Morgan in London, and then stayed with JP Morgan for the following 10 years in various Risk and Project Management roles, where she gained strong experience in the fields of financial analysis, management reporting, legal agreement negotiation and risk evaluation and control.
Catherine has a Bachelor's degree in Business Management and a Master's degree in Corporate Finance from the University of Paris Dauphine. She is fluent in English, French and German.
Karin Schumacher joined the UBS Optimus Foundation in 2002. She’s a proven expert in foundation management with more than 10 years of experience in the whole range of our Foundation’s activities - be it in the financial, legal, accountability or governance sector. Today Karin takes the role of the Foundation‘s Business Manager. Prior to UBS Optimus Foundation Karin worked for over a decade in several different departments and positions at UBS. Karin has a Swiss federal Diploma in business administration, a Swiss federal certification in pension fund management and holds a Diploma of Advanced Studies in Non-profit Management & Law (CEPS). She speaks several languages including German, English, French and Italian.
Nicole joined the UBS Optimus Foundation in September 2014 to represent the Foundation and to build relationships with donors in the United States.
Nicole has over 18 years of aggregate experience in the non-profit, philanthropic and corporate sectors, and brings a wealth of knowledge in non-profit management, corporate and non-profit governance, fundraising, performance assessment, leadership advisory services and policy research.
She has previously held roles with Heidrick & Struggles, Robin Hood Foundation, VCG Governance Matters, Saint-Gobain Desjonquères, UNICEF and UNDP.
Nicole has an MPA from Columbia University and a BA from SUNY Geneseo. She is fluent in English, Spanish and French.
Owen joined the Optimus Foundation in April 2015 as Project Manager, with responsibility for various business development initiatives. Prior to this he worked in various departments in UBS Wealth Management in Zurich, including Controlling for several markets and most recently client development for European Ultra High Net Worth clients.
Owen comes from Southern England and holds a bachelor degree in Economics from Cardiff University.
Hong Kong Branch
Wei Wei joined the UBS Optimus Foundation in January 2013 as the Director of Asia. Prior to his current role, he was an aid worker for more than two decades in East Africa and South Asia. Wei has more than 10 years of experience in poverty alleviation and child development. Wei served as the National Director of Right To Play China, the Program Director of Plan China and a Senior Program Officer of Pact. Wei has tremendous experience in organizational development, strategic planning, program management and fundraising. Wei managed programs in education, health, sanitation, community development and micro-finance. Wei holds a BA in Economics and a BA in Classics from Stanford University.
Adrian Schlauri is based in Hong Kong and is responsible for Operations within the UBS Optimus Foundation in Hong Kong. He joined the UBS Optimus Foundation in November 2014 to facilitate the growth of the foundation's Hong Kong branch and to drive its expansion across Asia-Pacific.
Prior to joining UBS Optimus Foundation, Adrian worked for the Wealth Management business of UBS in different positions since 2001 during which he advised Middle Eastern Ultra High Net Worth clients for more than four years before he focused his work on business and project management, driving new initiatives within UBS Wealth Management’s Affluent segment.
Adrian holds a bachelor degree in Business Administration with a Major in Banking and Finance from Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland and is a CFA charterholder.