UBS recently made Bob McCann head of UBS’ operations in the Americas and reassigned Philip Lofts to the post of chief risk officer for the Swiss-based firm. Maureen Miskovic, who had been chief risk officer for UBS since early 2010, left the firm.
The changes came several weeks after Sergio Ermotti was officially made CEO and were the first management rearrangement since the trading scandal that cost the Swiss bank more than $2 billion in September. (Ermotti replaced Oswald Gruebel, who stepped down after the unauthorized trades were discovered.)
“I see this [promotion of McCann] as a relatively loud signal of UBS’ dedication to its U.S. brokerage business and also to wealth management as its core business worldwide,” said Chip Roame, head of Tiburon Strategic Advisors of the Bay Area, in an interview.
“McCann is a long-time private client group executive at UBS and Merrill,” Roame explained. “The appointment of him as head of the entire UBS U.S. operation says to me that the emphasis will remain on private-client business, as opposed to investment banking, asset management or anything else.”
McCann came to UBS in 2009, after leading Merrill Lynch’s wealth-management operations. He has successfully recruited a number of managers and advisors to UBS from Bank of America-Merrill over the past two years.
In early December, for instance, Barry Mitchell — an advisor with yearly fees and commissions of $1.9 million and assets under management of roughly $290 million — joined UBS’ New York operations from Merrill Lynch. Mitchell will work in the Park Avenue office, where he will report to branch manager Dan Shepler.
“Bob McCann has always been viewed positively by the retail salesforce whether at UBS or at his former firm, Merrill Lynch,” said Mark Elzweig, an executive search consultant in New York, in an interview. “He’s regarded as someone who really understands the concerns and issues of brokers. I think that UBS advisors will be very happy with this news.”
As UBS has grappled with a number of issues, there has been continued speculation that its U.S.-based operations could be put up for sale and then perhaps purchased by a wirehouse rival, such as Wells Fargo. UBS has repeatedly denied such rumors. In mid-November, UBS disclosed plans to strengthen its wealth-management units while scaling down its investment bank and introducing new performance targets companywide.
For 2012-2016, the company says, wealth-management Americas will have yearly targets of 2-4 percent growth for net new money, 75-78 basis points for gross margin and 80-90 percent for the cost-to-income ratio. Wealth-management operations in the rest of the world have higher targets of 3-5 percent for net new money, 95-105 basis points for gross margin and 60-70 percent for the cost-to-income ratio.
Third-quarter net new money for the U.S.-based wealth-management operations was 4 billion Swiss francs (or $4.5 billion) compared with 2.6 billion Swiss francs in the second quarter and 0.3 billion Swiss francs a year ago. These figures exclude dividends and interest.
Net new money at UBS Americas wealth-management unit in Q3, including dividends and interest, was $9.5 billion, up 20 percent from $7.9 billion in Q2 and up 102 percent from $4.7 billion in Q3’10. At rival Morgan Stanley, these figures were $15.5 billion in Q3’11, $2.9 billion in Q2’11 and $5 billion in Q3’10.
In early December, UBS Americas adopted a mobile-technology strategy, including mobile tools and applications, such as one for the iPad that lets advisors interact with clients’ account information while on the go.
“As our FAs engage with clients in an environment that compels 24/7 connectivity, we are thrilled to launch an innovative platform that gets us in front of this market change and gives us an edge,” said Anita Sands, COO for UBS Wealth Management Americas, in a press release.
The wirehouse launched a three-month pilot period for the program — UBS FA Mobile — with a national launch of the platform to all FAs set to begin in March 2012. The application is designed for the iPad but the associated platform can be used on other mobile platforms. •