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Established in 1999, the UBS Optimus Foundation Switzerland is an independent legal entity and a registered charity in Switzerland. As part of its growth strategy, and reflecting UBS's commitment to support the Foundation's activities, new entities have, or will be set up in key locations in which UBS operates.

We have a team of highly-qualified, dedicated individuals who bring a breadth and depth of experience to the Foundation. 


Phyllis Costanza, CEO

Phyllis Costanza was appointed CEO of the UBS Optimus Foundation in 2011. Optimus is UBS's in-house Foundation dedicated to helping our clients fund impactful philanthropic programs that improve children's lives globally. Phyllis 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. She also has more than a decade of experience as a management consultant, and has worked in the public sector as the Manhattan Representative for New York State Governor Mario Cuomo, advising on policy and politics in Manhattan. In addition to her role as CEO of the UBS Optimus Foundation, Phyllis is also a member of the Boards of both the Power of Nutrition and the Micronutrient Initiative. She holds a Master's in Public Policy from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

John Fairhurst, Executive Director of Programs

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, COO

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, Head of Communication

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.

Barbara Brosius, UBS Optimus Foundation Germany

Geschäftsführerin UBS Foundation Germany and Vice Chairman of UBS Deutschland AG

Grant-making team

Guangshen Gao, Program Director

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, Director Program Strategy & Performance Measurement

Martina Gaus-Keller oversees the foundation's M&E and supports the program directors strategically across all areas. In addition to a profound understanding of social empirical research, she brings 10 years of experience in strategy consulting and project management, having worked for UBS Wealth Management, as well as the health and pharmaceutical practices of Booz & Co. and Executive Insight. She has a Master in Business Administration from the University of St. Gallen HSG and a doctoral degree in Organizational Behavior.

Linda Mao, Grants Manager

Linda Mao is a seasoned Business Controller with an entrepreneurial spirit. She brings ten years of experience as Business Controller and three years as Investment / Financial advisor at UBS and other financial services firms. In addition to this, she was also a small business owner for over five years. Linda has a diploma in statistics from Zhengzhou Institute of Aeronautical Industry in Henan province, China, and an MBA from The American Graduate School of Business in Vevey, Switzerland. She speaks Chinese, English and German.

Ann-Marie Sevcsik, Program Director

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, Program Director

Maya Ziswiler has been Program Director for Education and Early Childhood Development at UBS Optimus Foundation since 2012. She spearheaded the foundation's pioneering work on the first Development Impact Bond in Education in India and explores the role of non-state actors in education. Maya has also advocated for the importance of innovation and integration in early childhood development. She joined the Foundation from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria where she was responsible for managing public-private partnerships Previously, Maya worked for UNICEF in Peru and Procter & Gamble in the Middle East. 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 Chinese.

Client relations and business operations

Dragana Djokic, Management Support Officer

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.

Anthony Donatelli, Business Manager UK

Anthony Donatelli joined the UK Philanthropy Services team in April 2015 after spending two years working in Group Strategic Change Management and Group COO Risk Management in the UBS London office.

Prior to relocating to London, Anthony was based in the Sydney office for three years responsible for business continuity in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Indonesia. He joined UBS in the Americas headquarters in Stamford, CT within the Office of the COO in 2008, performing project management and business continuity roles. He has dual Bachelor of Arts degrees from Boston College in History and Education and his MBA through Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

Claire Freymond, Client Relations Manager

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.

Tom Hall, Head Client Relations, UK

With over 12 years' experience working with and advising private clients, Tom leads our UK Philanthropy services to help clients identify and achieve their philanthropic and impact investing strategies. Prior to joining UBS in 2013, Tom spent his career in the non-profit sector working with wealthy individuals and companies to deliver award winning, sustainable philanthropic and social investment solutions. As Director of Philanthropy and Social Investment at the disability charity Scope, he pioneered the use of social investment structures, including the Scope Bond which was the first listed bond issued by an operational charity in the UK. Tom also worked with the cabinet office on the development of the new Social Investment Tax Relief. Earlier in his career, Tom was the first UK employee of the Microloan Foundation securing the investment for the charity to expand into sustainable microfinance business reaching over 20,000 clients a year in Malawi and Zambia.

Tom is a Politics graduate from Exeter University and has professional qualifications in marketing (CIM), fundraising management and financial planning.

Sarah Gonzalez Arza (Renfer), Marketing and Communications Specialist

Sarah Gonzalez Arza joined UBS Optimus Foundation in Zurich in January 2016 as marketing and communications specialist. She was previously responsible for Business Development in the Swiss Education market for Apple, where she brought transformative teaching and learning technology to schools and universities. Prior to this, she has worked for non-profit organizations in Spain, India and Switzerland gaining invaluable innovation and project management experience. She recently completed a fellowship in microfinance for Kiva.org in Paraguay.

Sarah holds a Master's degree in International Relations from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva and a CAS in Corporate Social Responsibility from the University of Applied Sciences in Lucerne. Sarah is fluent in German, English, French and Spanish.

Adrian Schlauri, Business Manager

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.

Karen Schneider, UBS Optimus Foundation Germany


Karin Schumacher, Business Manager

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 Sebastian, Director, U.S.

Nicole joined the UBS Optimus Foundation in 2014 to establish the Foundation's presence in the U.S. and to help clients fulfill their philanthropic goals in supporting international children's causes. She has over two decades 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.

Previously, Nicole held roles with Heidrick & Struggles, Robin Hood Foundation, VCG Governance Matters, French-American Chamber of Commerce, Saint-Gobain Desjonquères, UNICEF and UNDP. She has served as an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, teaching a graduate-level Strategic Management course, and currently serves as an Adjunct Professor and Advisor for NYU Stern's Board Fellows Program.

Nicole received her MPA from Columbia University and BA from SUNY Geneseo. She is a founding member of the Young Professionals Committee of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and serves as a Board member of the Women's Executive Circle of New York (WECNY). Nicole is fluent in English, Spanish and French.

Owen Strickland, Project Manager

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.

Vanessa Smye, Client Relations Manager UK

Vanessa has extensive experience working with private clients, initially as a stockbroker and financial adviser for Edward Jones and HSBC before specialising in Philanthropy. She spent over four years as Philanthropy & Corporate Partnerships Manager at the disability charity Scope. Whilst there she played an integral role in securing investment into, and awareness of, Scope's social investment Bond within the private client and wealth adviser networks. Vanessa enjoys understanding the philanthropic aims of individual clients to enable the right, high impact solutions to be found for each client.

Vanessa has a Masters from the Royal College of Music and in 2010 obtained a Diploma in Financial Planning from the Chartered Insurance Institute.

Wei Wei, Director of Asia

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.

Foundation Board - Switzerland

Sergio P. Ermotti, Chairman, UBS

Sergio P. Ermotti has been Group Chief Executive Officer of UBS AG since November 2011, having held the position of Group Chief Executive Officer on an interim basis since September 2011. He has been Group Chief Executive Officer for UBS Group AG since November 2014. Mr. Ermotti became a member of the GEB in April 2011 and was Chairman and CEO of UBS Group Europe, Middle East and Africa from April to November 2011. From 2007 to 2010, he was Group Deputy Chief Executive Officer at UniCredit, Milan, and was responsible for the strategic business areas of Corporate and Investment Banking, and Private Banking. He joined UniCredit in 2005 as Head of Markets & Investment Banking Division. Between 2001 and 2003, he worked at Merrill Lynch, serving as co-Head of Global Equity Markets and as a member of the Executive Management Committee for Global Markets & Investment Banking. He began his career with Merrill Lynch in 1987, and held various positions within equity derivatives and capital markets. Mr. Ermotti is a Swiss-certified banking expert and is a graduate of the Advanced Management Programme at Oxford University.

Other activities and functions

  • Chairman of the Board of Directors of UBS Switzerland AG
  • Chairman of the Board of Directors of UBS Business Solutions AG
  • Chairman of the UBS Optimus Foundation Board
  • Chairman of the Fondazione Ermotti, Lugano
  • Chairman and President of the Board of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce
  • Board member of the Fondazione Lugano per il Polo Culturale, Lugano
  • Board member of the Global Apprenticeship Network
  • Member of the Institut International D'Etudes Bancaires
  • Member of the Financial Services Forum

Robert J. McCann, UBS

Robert J. McCann was appointed Chairman UBS Americas in January 2016. He previously served as President Wealth Management Americas of UBS AG (formerly CEO of Wealth Management Americas), and became a member of the GEB in October 2009. He held the same position for UBS Group AG since November 2014. In addition, he was President Americas since December 2011 (formerly CEO of UBS Group Americas). From 2003 to 2009, he worked for Merrill Lynch as Vice Chairman and President of the Global Wealth Management Group. In 2003, he served as Vice Chairman of Distribution and Marketing for AXA Financial. He began his career with Merrill Lynch in 1982, working in various positions in capital markets and research. From 2001 to 2003, he was Head of Global Securities Research and Economics. In 2000, he was appointed Chief Operating Officer of Global Markets and Investment Banking. From 1998 to 2000, he was Global Head of Global Institutional Debt and Equity Sales. Mr. McCann graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics from Bethany College, West Virginia, and holds an MBA from Texas Christian University.

Other activities and functions

  • Board member of UBS Optimus Foundation
  • Member of The Clearing House Supervisory Board
  • Vice Chairman of the Bethany College Board of Trustees
  • Member of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy
  • Board member of the American Ireland Fund
  • Board member of the Partnership for New York City
  • Board member of the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York
  • Advisory Board member for the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative

Amy Lo, UBS

Amy Lo is the Head of UBS Wealth Management Greater China and Country Head of UBS Hong Kong. She is appointed a Group Managing Director at UBS.

Based in Hong Kong, Amy leads and manages UBS's wealth management business in the Greater China region. In her capacity as the Country Head of the Hong Kong Branch, she also oversees the strategy development, regulatory interface, and UBS activities in Hong Kong.

Since joining the bank in 1995, she has held a number of senior management positions including Deputy Head of Wealth Management Hong Kong; Regional Market Manager of Hong Kong; Country Team Head of Hong Kong; Chief of Staff of Hong Kong. Before taking on her current role, she was the regional Head of Ultra-High Net Worth and Head of Global Family Office for Asia Pacific.

Amy chairs the Private Wealth Management Association in Hong Kong, and is a member of the Banking Industry Training Advisory Committee of the Hong Kong Education Bureau. She is also a member of MBA Advisory Board at The University of Hong Kong. She is also a member of the UBS Diversity & Inclusion Council.

Christian Wiesendanger, UBS

Christian Wiesendanger is Head of Wealth Management Switzerland at UBS AG since October 2010, when he was appointed as Group Managing Director of UBS. Most recently, Mr. Wiesendanger worked for the Swiss bank Credit Suisse, where he was initially responsible for Wealth Management in central Switzerland and later became Head of Wealth Management for Latin America.

Mr. Wiesendanger holds a Master in mathematics and theoretical physics from the University Zurich, where he also obtained a PhD in theoretical physics. After achieving this he added Master of Business Administration at Insead Fontainebleau in France.

Theo Sowa, external expert

Theo Sowa is Chief Executive Officer of the African Women’s Development Fund. She previously worked as an independent advisor on a wide range of international social development issues. Her earlier work was with children at risk in UK and international settings, leading to an appointment to the Board of the UK National Youth Agency by the then UK Minister for Education.

Theo has worked for many years as an Advisor to Graca Machel and other public sector and civil society leaders on a range of global issues, including women’s rights, child rights, African and international women’s leadership, and strategic advocacy. She has worked with a variety of international multilateral organisations, civil society organisations and national government bodies, including Save the Children Fund and UNICEF. Theo’s work has had a special focus on the promotion and protection of women and children’s rights in armed conflict situations, as well as on women and youth leadership. She has a special interest in strengthening the role and impact of philanthropic activity on social development issues, in Africa and internationally.

An experienced writer, Theo has produced a number of policy reports for NGOs, journal and magazine articles and was also a contributing editor to a book on the Impact of War on Children and the co-author of a book on Groupwork with young people. She is co-editor of a recent UNICEF Innocenti/ Harvard University book on Children and Transitional Justice.

Marcel Tanner, external expert

Marcel Tanner obtained a PhD on medical biology from the University of Basel and a MPH from the University of London. He is Director of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and Professor of Epidemiology and Medical Parasitology at the University of Basel and at the Federal Institute of Technology. Since 1977, his research ranges from basic research on the cell biology and immunology on malaria, schistosomiasis, trypanosomiasis and filariasis to epidemiological and public health research on risk assessment, vulnerability, health impact and district health planning. His research, teaching and health planning expertise are based on substantial long term experience from working in rural and urban areas in Africa (mainly Tanzania, Chad, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire) and Asia (China, Thailand, Laos). He was co-investigator and coordinator of the first African malaria vaccine trial in 1992 and participated as co-principal investigator in several major intervention trials on malaria (iron supplementation, intermittent preventive treatment) and schistosomiasis. Besides research the capacity building and North-South partnership was a main interest as reflected in the development of the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania. He has published extensively in the many fields (>500 original papers). He also acted and acts as advisor on communicable diseases research and control, health systems strengthening and capacity building in various national and international agencies / bodies and in boards/committees such as e.g. WHO/STAC-TDR, Wellcome Trust, DNDi, NITD, INCLEN-Trust and INEPTH.

Fay D. Twersky, external expert

Fay Twersky is Director of the Effective Philanthropy Group at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Twersky has an extensive background in program design, strategy development and evaluation. She served for four years as a Director and member of the leadership team of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, designing and developing their Impact Planning & Improvement division. She was also a founding principal of BTW - Informing Change, a firm that provides strategic consulting to foundations and nonprofit organizations. Before launching BTW, she worked for nine years with two other consulting organizations, Harder+Company Community Research and the Center for Applied Local Research.

Twersky has authored more than 100 articles and reports. Most recently, she has been a contributor to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the Alliance Magazine and was principal author for Measurement and Evaluation in Israel's Third Sector, and A Guide to Actionable Measurement. She also co-edited the book, “New Social Entrepreneurs: The Success, Challenge and Lessons from Nonprofit Enterprise Creation.” She holds two Bachelor’s degrees in Rhetoric and Middle Eastern Studies with high honors from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master’s degree in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jeffrey R. Williams, external expert

Jeffrey R. Williams is a corporate director and independent consultant with over 30 years experience in the financial services and education industries in Greater China.

In 2004, Williams became the first foreigner to lead a Chinese bank -- Shenzhen Development Bank -- since the founding of the PRC. Previously, he had served in various roles for Citibank in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Shenzhen, and as the Taiwan general manager for American Express Company and Standard Chartered Bank. Most recently, Williams was the inaugural Executive Director and General Manager of Harvard Center (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. Harvard University’s base of operations in China.

In 1979-80 Williams taught at Peking University, shortly after the resumption of diplomatic relations between China and the United States.

Williams has extensive experience at the board level in private and listed companies as well as non-profit organizations in Greater China and the USA. Williams is currently an independent director at China Universal Asset Management, a Shanghai-based mutual fund company, and a director of Shanghai FRoad Commercial Services Co., a provider of mobile banking solutions to smaller banks across China.

He is also a trustee of the China Medical Board based in Cambridge, MA. Williams formerly served as chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei and chairman of Taipei American School. He has been the President of the Harvard alumni clubs of Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Williams graduated magna cum laude in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard College in 1978 and received his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1982, and is currently a Rajawali Senior Fellow at the Ash Center of Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.