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Ten to Watch 2010-2011: Mister Fix-It

Ten to Watch 2010-2011: Mister Fix-It

Robert J. McCann, CEO, Wealth Management Americas, UBS

Robert J. McCann

AGE: 52

POSITION: CEO, Wealth Management Americas, UBS, AG

LOCATION: Weehawken, N.J.

EDUCATION: B.A. in Economics, Bethany College, M.B.A., Texas Christian University.

Since Robert J. McCann took charge as CEO of UBS Wealth Management Americas last October, the Swiss banking giant's brokerage business is sounding a lot less embattled. The memories of massive client asset withdrawals are finally receding, with outflows slowing earlier this year. In the first quarter, outflows totaled about $6.77 billion, which is an improvement from $11.56 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Sure, the market has cooperated (and, yes, things could still go awry). But the down-to-earth McCann, known as Bob among colleagues, gets plenty of credit from people following the Americas' unit business. Indeed, job satisfaction among financial advisors, which now number around 7,000, has improved remarkably, according to a recent internal survey at UBS. That compares with the pretty dismal results from a Registered Rep. Broker Report card published in December. It showed only one third of UBS brokers felt their firm was the best place to work. This is a turnaround story. Since McCann arrived, the attrition rate among advisors has dropped from 24 percent to 8.8 percent among advisors generating more than $250,000 in annual revenues, and from 32 percent to 6 percent among advisors generating $1 million-plus.

McCann, former president of Merrill Lynch's thundering herd, has been well received by UBS advisors. He also knows a thing or two about motivating his brokerage troops. He had Col. David Sutherland, former commander of the U.S. Army's 3rd Brigade combat team in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, drop by recently to talk about leadership. Meanwhile, the introduction of an advisor incentive program under McCann has attracted praise. Layers of bureaucratic fat and other costs have been slashed.

Some worry McCann and his team are cleaning up the wealth management division for an eventual sale or spin-off. McCann denies this. Still, it helps him that McCann gets along very well with UBS Group CEO, Oswald Gruebel. McCann could conceivably have a very bright future ahead within the worldwide UBS global organization. “There isn't a question in my mind, as we sit here now, that we are a better company and in a better position than we were on October 26, the day I got here,” McCann told Registered Rep. in an interview earlier this year. Few would disagree.

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