UBS just poached a $3 billion wealth team from Goldman Sachs in one of the Swiss bank's biggest adviser hires of the year, as it pushes for more mega-rich clients

  • UBS is hiring a large Washington, DC-based team of financial advisers from Goldman Sachs as it doubles down on private wealth within its wider wealth business.
  • The team, overseeing some $3 billion in assets, is UBS's largest hire by client assets since the firm took on a $6 billion team from Goldman in February, and among its largest adviser hires of 2020. 
  • The competition for wealth talent is fierce. Like other financial advisory powerhouses, UBS has lost advisers in recent years to a crop of growing independent wealth management firms. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

UBS is hiring a Washington, DC-based team from Goldman Sachs' wealth division overseeing $3 billion in client assets, the Swiss firm said Monday. The hire is a sign UBS is doubling down on its lucrative private wealth business as its wider financial adviser force shrinks.

The team is UBS's largest hire by client assets since the firm recruited a team from Goldman Sachs overseeing $6 billion in assets in February, and is one of its largest adviser hires of 2020. They will join the firm's private wealth unit, where advisers tend work with clients with a net worth of at least $30 million.

The team, headed up by private wealth advisers John Hanley, Colin McKay, and Michael Francis, will join UBS once their garden leaves are over in two months. Trusts and estates specialist Karlyn Wright, senior wealth strategy associate Louis McCabe, and team administrator Katherine Andes are also on the team joining UBS. 

A UBS spokesperson declined to comment on the team's overall production. A Goldman Sachs spokesperson did not respond to a request to comment. 

UBS has been doubling down on the business it's best known for: overseeing the financial lives of extraordinarily wealthy people. That's included a focus on expanding the business's private wealth unit.

Global wealth co-heads Iqbal Khan and Tom Naratil highlighted that focus in an internal memo to staff in January, noting high-net-worth clients will "continue to control the largest pool of private wealth in the decade ahead," and remain the largest driver of the division's revenue and profitability. 

Read more: UBS is rolling out the red carpet for ultra-rich people and family offices who want in on private-market deals

The concentration on highly productive financial advisers comes as its wider financial adviser force has shrunk. Like other wealth powerhouses, UBS has lost advisers in recent years to retirement and a crop of growing independent wealth firms. The firm does not break out its private wealth adviser headcount. 

UBS reported 9,786 advisers as of June 30, marking a decline of 6% from 10,403 a year prior; the majority of the firm's advisers are based in the Americas.  

Global wealth management reported some $2.6 trillion in invested assets through June 30 in its second-quarter earnings results. 

Read more: The head of UBS's US wealth business explained lessons learned from remote work, and how it landed on Skype as its preferred video-conferencing tool

In an interview with Business Insider, Julie Fox, who runs UBS's northeast US private wealth market, said the Washington, DC area is an important growth-oriented market for the private wealth business.

The firm now has six private wealth teams in that market catering primarily to family offices, entrepreneurs, and business owners. 

"Part of my goal was to expand the private wealth presence in the mid-Atlantic corridor," Fox said in a phone interview, citing hubs like Boston and Philadelphia, where the firm has made significant adviser hires this year.  

Fox and John Mathews, the head of the Americas ultra-high-net-worth client segment and private wealth management, reiterated the division's wider recruitment strategy echoed by US wealth boss Jason Chandler: quality over quantity. 

"We'll never have the most financial advisers in any market that we work in," Mathews said, but the firm is focused on recruiting and holding onto large, productive teams.

The firm's wealth operations have shifted under Khan, who joined the firm last October from Swiss banking rival Credit Suisse. UBS is set to close its US private bank in January and eliminate the role of private banker from US operations, a move first reported by Citywire. The private bank typically catered to clients with offshore accounts. 

While UBS has made some big adviser hires this year, it's seen some notable exits. Laura Pennington, a veteran private wealth adviser based in DC, joined Rockefeller Capital Management there in January. 

In early June the firm lost three teams together generating $15 million to Rockefeller, Raymond James, and RBC Wealth Management, according to a report from AdvisorHub.

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