Management Changes at UBS Wealth Management Unit Could Make Financial Advisors’ Lives Simpler

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UBS Wealth Management, which has 7,000 registered financial advisors, is doing some pruning at the management level—reflecting an increased need to deal with expenses.

Basically, “They’ve done away with a layer of management,” Boyden Managing Director Richard Lipstein tells eFinancialCareers.

Bob Mulholland, who was head of the wealth management advisor group, was named head of wealth management and investment solutions, according to a memo to the staff obtained by Bloomberg. Jason Chandler, who ran the unit’s ultra-high net worth division, is now reporting to Mulholland. “Other managers were also shifted or pruned,” reports Investment News, though so far only one executive is leaving UBS due to the changes.

The staff memo to staff was signed by UBS Americas CEO Robert McCann, who joined UBS after leaving as head of Merrill Lynch's Wealth Management Unit. McCann “has proven himself to be a smart manager," says Lipstein, calling the changes “a part of Wall Street’s continued focus on containing expenses.”

Another recruiter termed the UBS changes “a big deal for retail.”

Danny Sarch told Investment News that “Mulholland is no longer running the field. And it’s significant that they did away with a layer of management. It’s a trend in the business. “Mulholland had two regional divisions report to him, and that divisional layer no longer exists.”

For financial advisors at UBS, that might be a good thing, said Sarch, who has UBS as a client. “The financial advisor now has his manager, his regional manager and Chandler” and that’s it. "Losing an extra layer of supervision should streamline things," Sarch observes.

As part of the restructuring of the wealth management unit, Bloomberg reports:

  • John Brown, who led wealth management solutions, is reporting to Mulholland as head of the middle-markets business. He will also report to Brian Hull, who assumes the new title of head of strategic clients and partnerships, as leader of the team responsible for wealth management America’s partnerships with the equities and fixed-income division of UBS’s investment bank.
  • Mike Schweitzer, who led wealth management America’s western division, is leaving the firm. He is the only departure as part of the leadership changes.
  • Paula Polito, who was chief marketing officer, is becoming chief strategy officer, continuing to lead marketing and adding the responsibility of the unit’s emerging affluent segment and retirement-services business.

Four years ago, there were rumors that UBS was going to sell its wealth management business—the heart of it being the firm formerly known as Paine Webber, which UBS bought 12 years ago as a means to get a foothold in North America.

Now that UBS has returned to profitability, there are no longer rumors of a sale, Lipstein said. But like other wirehouses, he says, UBS has found it necessary to rationalize costs on the advisory side—which tends to have higher expenses than other retail operations including private banking.

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