20 years of impact

Annual Review 2019 UBS Optimus Foundation

Sergio P. Ermotti Chairman, UBS Optimus Foundation Board and  Phyllis Costanza CEO, UBS Optimus Foundation

Dear reader,

20 years ago, we established UBS Optimus Foundation to partner with our clients and employees and help them to improve the lives of the most vulnerable around the world. Since that time, we've raised more than half a billion US dollars.

For the last two decades, our foundation has focused on health, education and protection of children – as these are some of the most essential factors to ensure a successful future. We have supported innovations from inception to scale, working with social entrepreneurs and enabling social finance to tackle some of the most pressing global issues.

Turning 20

Celebrating 20 years of improving millions of children's lives together with our clients.

In 1999, looking to the future beyond the start of a new millennium, we formed UBS Optimus Foundation − a client-driven foundation linked to a global wealth manager and staffed with philanthropy experts. Since then we've achieved a lot.

13 million children impacted from 2014-2019

USD 525 million funds granted to date

45% invested in healthcare programs

24% invested in education programs

20% invested in child protection programs

11% invested in emergency relief programs

90% of UBS's large clients are giving

Solving pressing social and environmental issues

From ending poverty to improving health and education – these are some of the issues that we can address.

The UN has established 17 Sustainable Development Goals that it describes as an ‘urgent call for action’ for all countries, both developing and developed to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty, create safe and equitable work environments, and protect our planet. Yet with a USD 2.5 trillion annual investment funding gap, it's clear that a new, more collaborative approach is necessary. We believe that philanthropy at scale is best placed to catalyze profound change required to meet these goals.

Acting on our mission

We partner with you to maximize your philanthropic impact.

Together we solve social and environmental issues through collaborations that make real impact on a large scale.

UBS Optimus Foundation delivers innovative solutions to pressing social and environmental issues.

Taking a glance

Your passion combined with our expertise is making a real difference.

2019 in numbers.


million US dollars raised


million children reached


million US dollars in grants approved*


programs managed


countries we deploy grants to


offices globally 


years of experience


Philanthropy experts in 12 locations.

World map

Working locally, nationally and globally

We take an evidence-based approach and focus on programs that have the potential to be transformative, scalable and sustainable.

This gives you the reassurance that you are funding innovative projects that have a stronger chance of achieving all-important systemic change*.

Helping children reach their full potential by focusing on three areas

Solving issues at scale is required more than ever

Possible ways to engage

One way is by taking collective action to deliver social impact. Another way is by testing and defining new outcomes-based financial mechanisms to deliver social impact.

Fueling the growth of collective giving

Maximize your impact and leverage your giving power by investing in our managed portfolios.

New and unique forms of collective giving are emerging. At UBS Optimus Foundation, we believe in philanthropy working together as a driver of change.

The Foundation has a limited set of collective portfolio areas focused on long term impact. We engage with philanthropists and social organizations, gathering evidence and experience from our frontline work to identify best-in-class programs that we have selected for their impact and scalability. We review our collective portfolios regularly; we periodically exit and add new areas.

Taking a stand against child trafficking and modern slavery

Slavery, unfortunately, is not confined to the history books. In 2017, more than 41 million men, women and children were victims of modern slavery, four million of these people enslaved in the sex industry and 16 million working in business supply chains to provide the goods that power the global economy (ILO, 2017). If slavery were a company, it would have made more profits in 2016 than the top four profitable companies in the world, over USD 150 billion (ILO, 2017).

Philanthropy has been at the forefront of tackling slavery, supporting innovative work to strengthen the resilience of communities at risk, to strengthen law enforcement and justice systems and to work with businesses to effectively uncover and monitor labor abuses.

That's why we came together with our partners The Freedom Fund, International Justice Mission, and Survivor Alliance to start Justice, Hope, and Liberty (JHL).

JHL is a groundbreaking collaboration which aims to build a comprehensive, scalable, and portable model that mobilizes government, communities, and survivors to end commercial sexual exploitation of children in Bangladesh.

This initiative offers the opportunity to invest collectively to tackle commercial sexual exploitation of children not just in Bangladesh, but also to develop an effective model that can be replicated globally. By investing with fellow philanthropists, and with UBS match funding, your donation will be leveraged to have an outsized impact. We invite you to join this crucial work to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Mobilizing private capital to do good

Bridge the gap between philanthropy and sustainable investing by taking an outcome-focused approach.

Through social finance, and a clear focus on results, we aim to draw new private investment into development to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For many, this means exploring new philanthropic and investing tools, like development impact bonds (DIBs), where social impact drives financial returns.

World's largest education impact bond makes the grade

By the age of 10 (grade 5), fewer than 50% of Indian primary school pupils have reached the reading level of a 7-year-old (grade 2).

This is why in 2018, together with an impressive coalition of public and private partners, we launched the Quality Education India Development Impact Bond (DIB), which is, according to The Economic Times, the world’s largest education DIB to date.

Since its launch, the DIB has funded teaching enhancement programs in 600 schools, reaching more than 100,000 students aged 5-11 in its first year. The children benefiting from the program in government-run schools and slum communities are from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. And quality is the key word – as opposed to only focusing on enrollment, we focus on children’s learning outcomes. And based on an independent verification conducted by Gray Matters India, the program has, in its first year, resulted in almost a third more students achieving basic literacy and numeracy skills than a representative control group of students from non-participating schools.

If you're looking to support an innovative education program that will eventually change the lives of 200,000 primary school children in India, then this social finance initiative is for you.

Relying on our unique network


The UBS Optimus Foundation Network consists of the UBS Optimus Foundation in

Switzerland, its branch in Hong Kong, and the representative office in China, its sister organizations UBS Optimus Foundation Deutschland, UBS Optimus Foundation UK and UBS Optimus Foundation Singapore, as well as a donation platform in the United States.

We receive funds from UBS, its clients and employees.

We give grants to program partners that are helping underprivileged or vulnerable children and youth around the world in the areas of health, education and child protection, as well as funds for emergency response. Additionally, in 2019, we added environmental and climate philanthropy to our offering.

Our Network is governed through individual Boards in Switzerland, the UK, Singapore and Germany. The Boards are made up of UBS employees and independent external members (except for the German Board, which comprises only UBS employees).
Annually, a strategic meeting of representatives from each of these Boards is held in Zurich, Switzerland.

To make sure we have the highest standards of transparency in terms of decision making, and in line with good governance practices, the Network has established a Network Management Committee.