Lane Strumlauf heads the West Division of UBS Wealth Management Americas, where he runs an 11-market, 68-office territory spread across 13 states. He oversees about 1,400 financial advisors with some $200 billion in client assets and also serves on WMA’s Executive Committee.
Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Strumlauf has been in the business for about 25 years. He reflects on what he’s learned and what lies ahead in the following interview.
How did you begin your career in wealth management?
I graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in accounting, and after a few years in that business, I realized that accounting wasn’t for me. I wanted more control over my own destiny and a more direct influence on my compensation.
Working as a financial advisor, I realized that the harder I worked the more control I could have over my income potential. So at the age of 26, I made the switch, and Shearson-Lehman hired me as an entry-level financial advisor in Atlanta.
My start was making cold calls to high-net-worth individuals and selling newly issued preferred stock. It was a great fit and I’ve never looked back.
What have you learned from your supervisors?
Over the years, many different supervisors have taught me a lot. I guess you might say that I’m an optimist and much of that comes from leaders who showed me how to develop and maintain a positive attitude.
I’ve picked up several mottos and mantras along the way. It all starts with “Always do the right thing.” My managers made it clear that putting clients and colleagues first always pays off.
I also learned that as a leader, it’s wise to under promise and over deliver. Too often people in business do the opposite and especially in a relationship business, you can’t get far by disappointing people — clients or colleagues.
I’ve also learned that everything happens for a reason, and things usually work out the way they are supposed to. Often in your career, it doesn’t feel that way in the moment when you are surprised or disappointed, but with time, things can work out.
For me, I’m kind of the poster child for being fortunate in my career in ways that I didn’t always immediately recognize. Most of the career events that I thought were setbacks or didn’t generate the recognition or opportunities when I wanted, turned out to be blessings in disguise. Over and over again, the path that I thought was a diversion or a disappointment led to bigger and better things.
What have the broker-dealers you have worked for taught you that has most influenced your career?
I don’t know that any particular firm taught me more than another. It’s the people you work with that you learn from. But I have seen a lot of change in the industry over the years and a lot of firms have not changed for the better.
When I started with Shearson-Lehman, there was a small feel to the organization. Senior leadership was visible and really involved with advisors in a significant way. They were much closer to the clients.
As different firms merged over the years that feeling went away. The firms got too big and it felt different. Ten years ago when I joined UBS, its small firm feel was really exciting for me.
To be back at a place with a singular wealth management focus and a concentration on the private client, for me it felt right. And UBS has only continued with that emphasis and feel. It was always a relatively flat organization and it has gotten flatter.
Senior leadership has been involved in a real, significant way for the past ten years. That helps good people make good decisions thinking of the client and their advisors first and foremost. It’s why I love working with UBS and why I believe we have a unique advantage. Senior leaders at the firm wake up thinking about wealth management first, which is good for clients and employees.