Paul Santucci, who leads recruiting for UBS Wealth Management U.S., explains how the broker-dealer has been on a tear in the United States.
What is the current recruiting environment?
The recruiting environment is really dependent on the uncertain activities that occur at other firms.
If you are an FA with another firm with a significant client base, a couple of things come up on an ongoing basis that would question whether you should stay at the firm or look to become an FA at another firm, including ours.
Obviously with firms that have been involved in mergers, the situation means that those advisors are more apt to speak with us no than they ever have been before. Firms that have been merged or affected by a similar situation, and we know there are multiple firms like that, represent activity that breeds uncertain times for FAs and clients. That is creating more opportunities for us to recruit FAs from the competition.
What is UBS doing in this climate?
I think our branch managers have realized what this opportunity is presenting for them. They are clearly focused on recruiting for the growth of the firm and for their respective branch offices. And they, quite frankly, have taken advantage of the opportunity being presented. They are recruiting a high-level FA, an FA that has more fee-based business and that has a more holistic approach to their business than we’ve seen in the past.
We feel very comfortable with the FAs we’re bringing into our firm. They have better businesses than we’ve ever seen.
We do whatever we have to do to be competitive in the marketplace, and our deals are structured accordingly. We constantly look at what our competition is doing, and we intend to be competitive in this arena.
How does UBS differentiate itself today?
Our emphasis is placed on the fact that we are the only pure wealth-management play out there. We are tied to a bank, but it’s not based in the United States. Our advisors feel that they are part of the last pure-play wealth management platform on the Street.
If you compare us to our competition and the changes they are going through, nobody knows what that is all going to look like when it’s over. People coming here feel that they’re part of something that is the last piece of the last wealth-management business left in the United States. And we are proud to be part of UBS.
This is really very different from the rest of the Street.
Are you facing pressure from independent and other broker-dealers?
I have not heard a lot about movement to the independent channel, though this is something our branch managers are more familiar with. Still, I can say that in conversation with regional and branch-area managers, it doesn’t seem like the independents are making great inroads into our organization.
When we lose people, we lose them to the other firms that are similar to us. We don’t see huge outflows of people going independent.
Some advisors are pairing up and moving to have their businesses become more independent [within UBS] by using more of the firm’s tools and resources.
With UBS, you still have the backing of a bank, and the last time I checked, our balance sheet was in good shape. FAs are more comfortable with that.
How does UBS find a good fit with prospective advisors?
Prior to an FA’s arrival at UBS, we employ the most robust due diligence on the Street.
We spend a lot of time with the prospective FA to be sure we are the right firm for them. And before they make a decision to come here, they’re also doing a lot of due diligence on us. There’s a mutual inventory of whether it’s the right decision for both parties to come together.
And we spend a lot on coaching and helping people with their practices from two angles: one, to increase their productivity and two to increase their skill set and have better conversations. This is an important part of our recruiting story.