Even as the parent company reported a $1.2 billion loss in the fourth quarter of 2012, financial advisors at UBS' Wealth Management Americas division delivered for their leader Bob McCann. The division posted revenues of $1.75 billion, up 16 percent from the same quarter a year ago, and pre-tax profits of $216 million, a 36 percent increase.
McCann's network of 7,059 brokers hit an all-time record average annual revenue of $1 million each in the fourth quarter of 2012. That’s up eight percent from $927,000 in the previous quarter and 15 percent, from $869,000, for the same period a year ago.
It’s a significant financial milestone, and about the only bright spot in the global firm's fiscal performance. McCann set the $1 million goal for his brokers soon after he took the reins as CEO of the division in 2009. Invested assets per advisor also hit a record in the latest quarter: $119 million, up ten percent from $108 million in the same quarter a year ago.
“Its strategy is clear. UBS is aiming to be the all-star team of wirehouse advisors, looking for top recruits and paying them a premium. Going forward, UBS is looking to be envy of other wirehouses in advisor production,” said Scott Smith, an analyst at Cerulli Associates.
The UBS FA network is also highly-motivated, according to the 2012 REP. Broker Report Card. All told, 90 percent of responding FAs agreed that UBS was “the best place to work.”
FA headcount at UBS WMA crept up slightly to 7,059 from 7,032 in the third quarter, and from 6,967 a year ago, even as the division trimmed operational and back office staff. Overall employees at the brokerage division decreased by 88 to 16,094.
Karina Byrne, a UBS WMA spokeswoman, said the latest quarterly advisor production cements UBS advisors’ reputation as the industry’s most productive. By contrast, average revenue per advisor at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch is $935,000 ($862,000 including its Merrill Edge online business); $824,000 at Morgan Stanley; and $670,000 at Wells Fargo, according to UBS estimates.
UBS WMA is able to focus on quality advisors because its FA headcount is about half the size of the other wirehouses, according to Cerulli's Smith. “It also means UBS only has to recruit half as many FAs as its peers on an ongoing basis.”
The quarter was notable for other records: Invested assets were up to $843 billion, or one percent from the $832 billion reported in the quarter previous and 12 percent from $756 billion reported in the year-ago quarter. The division also reported net new money (NNM) (excluding dividends and interest) of $8.8 billion, up 84 percent from the third quarter and 312 percent from $2.1 billion a year ago. That's the highest quarterly gain in NNM since the beginning of 2009, Byrne said.