The most anticipated hiring in recent Wall Street history has finally come to pass.
UBS announced early this morning that it has hired former Merrill Lynch executive Robert J. McCann as the head of wealth management in the Americas.
UBS has seen wealthy clients pull out $153.9 billion in net assets since March 2008. Earlier this year, it agreed to hand US tax authorities data on 4,450 accounts to settle a allegations that UBS has helping clients dodge taxes. Morale has been badly hurt by this series of setbacks.
McCann takes charge of almost 8,000 financial advisers, a wealth management force built from the base of Paine Webber, which UBS acquired earlier this decade. McCann will have responsibility for all of the domestic wealth-management businesses in the US and Canada, and all international business in the US.
UBS is making no secret of the fact that hiring McCann is part of an aggressive plan to gain market share at the expense of its competitors, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch. McCann “will apply his long and deep client relationship and business experience to gain market share, increase profitability and grow our Wealth Management Americas business,” UBS CEO Oswald Gruebel said in a statement issued in the wee hours of the morning. “In the Americas alone, the wealth management market opportunity represents high net worth assets in excess of $20 trillion.”
McCann ran Merrill Lynch’s brokerage business and was named head of the combined unit after Bank of America acquired Merrill. He lef shortly thereafter. Most of this year was spent in a dispute with Bank of America over whether the terms of his contract restricted his ability to take a job with a rival. That suit was settled earlier this month, largely on terms favourable to McCann.
There has been a lot of speculation that McCann may try to poach top producers from Merrill Lynch, where many financial advisers have been unhappy since Bank of America took over. Earlier this month, Merrill lost its head of wealth management in Europe and the Middle East.
UBS Paine Webber acquired for $11.5 billion in 2000 to build a serious presence in U.S. wealth management. The Paine Webber brand was scrapped in 2003. There has been a lot of talk that McCann will revive that name
“My goal here is to build the best wealth management business in the Americas,” McCann told reporters on a conference call earlier today.
The big fight everyone will be watching will be with McCann’s former home, Merrill Lynch. McCann has deep connections with Merrill’s financial advisers, having first worked as an equities salesman for the firm in the early 1980s.
Sallie Krawcheck, who took over the Merrill Lynch business this summer, is said to be actively recruiting former Merrill Lynch executives in an attempt to reassure the company’s army of financial advisers that the long-running company culture will remain intact under Bank of America. We here the she has been highly focused on recruiting Brian Hull, a former Merrill executive who people familiar with the matter say was forced out last year by Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan.
In many ways, Hull would be an ideal hire–a Merrill veteran with close ties to the alumni ranks. H was close to McCann and would be a bridge from Merrill’s past. It would be a sign to Merrill’s financial advisers and its clients that Krawcheck was serious about preserving Merrill’s culture. “He’s a Merrill culture carrier,” one person said.
Some believe that Krawcheck will not be able to lure Hull back into the Merrill fold. “They broke his heart last year. There’s no way he’s going back,” a person said.
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