UBS Morale Lifts

The dismal morale among UBS brokers seems to be improving of late. A number of top financial advisors at the firm say that they are so far very pleased with the leadership of UBS Wealth Management CEO Bob McCann, and the team of people he has brought on board.

The dismal morale among UBS brokers seems to be improving of late. A number of top financial advisors at the firm say that they are so far very pleased with the leadership of UBS Wealth Management CEO Bob McCann, and the team of people he has brought on board. McCann joined UBS in October, following a legal settlement with former employer Bank of America over a non-compete agreement.

“Morale, I would say it’s good,” said one top broker at the firm. “I was in a meeting last week and the new CEO McCann spoke and he was awesome.”

The shift in mood comes despite the depressed stock price, which is trading at around $13, down from a high of around $62 in April of 2007, as well as ongoing wrangling between the firm, the Swiss government and the IRS over UBS’ tax-dodging clients. But whatever impact McCann’s hiring has had on attrition at the firm will not be clear until UBS issues fourth quarter earnings on February 9.

One advisor insists that McCann just gets it. “No nonsense. Straight shooting. He gets it. He understands what the biz is all about, which is the FA-client relationship. He said that. And Hoekstra was a good guy, but man, McCann he is absolutely…if anybody can put the UBS private wealth management side back on the map he certainly can as far as the brand name.”

Another broker praised McCann’s management team, many of whom were recruited from McCann’s former stomping grounds, Merrill Lynch. “They have a very humble attitude. They think that they work for us. That’s a big change,” says the broker. But he means no dig at former UBS Wealth management CEO Martin Hoekstra, he says. “He was a good guy. But these people call and want to know what they can do for us. In a concrete way. They say, ‘Let me take over your project.’ ‘Let me take over your marketing materials,’” the broker says.

On Jan. 22 a Swiss court ruled that the Swiss government must not hand over the details of accounts belonging to U.S. tax dodgers. In a settlement reached last August between the Swiss government and the U.S., the Swiss agreed to hand over the names of 4,450 American clients. The settlement was meant to resolve accusations by the U.S. government that UBS deliberately helped clients evade taxes.

At least one FA said that the tax news no longer fazes him or his clients. “I’ve talked to 40 clients in the past two days and nobody’s mentioned it,” he says. “At this point, after what UBS has been through… if they didn’t get bugged out by the other stuff that happened, they’re not going to get bugged out by that.”

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