UBS Philanthropy Expert Exits

Mario Marconi, UBS, philanthropy, peoplemoves, wealth management, Persona

Mario Marconi

A veteran UBS wealth management executive is leaving the Swiss bank, has learned. The departure of the philanthropy specialist follows an overhaul of the bank's charitable activities.

Mario Marconi is leaving UBS, two sources told separately. UBS didn't comment. A spokesman said the bank generally doesn't comment on staff movements.

Marconi's departure represents more than a routine staff move: he is the long-time head of UBS' philanthropy activities, part of its private bank.

Veteran of UBS

Marconi, a managing director, has spent nearly his entire career at UBS. He started with the bank's predecessor organization, Swiss Bank Corporation, in 1989 in corporate banking.

He then moved to wealth management mid-1990s, where he rose successively and specialized in advising wealthy families.

Private bank boss Juerg Zeltner appointed him as global head of UBS' family services group in 2010 to build up new units for philanthropy and valued-based investing.

Marconi Sacked?

The lack of thanks for his 27 years at UBS indicates an acrimonious end to his career at the bank. Marconi was let go by the bank, according to one of the sources. UBS didn't comment on the circumstances of his departure.

UBS' reluctance to comment may lie in the fact that Marconi had increasingly fallen out of favor internally, or was even dropped.

Philanthropy Chairman Job

Marconi left his job as head of philanthropy at the end of last year when UBS, as reported at the time, reorganized the unit. Laura Geiger-Pancera was brought in as new head, and Marconi was given a job called Philanthropy Chairman, which solely entailed dealing with clients.

UBS said the new structure was to separate the financial and non-financial parts of philanthropy.

Values-based investing, led by Marconi, was folded into UBS' Investment Product and Services, or IPS, and overseen by led by investment banker Mike Stewart and Dominic Vail, head of IPS for ultra-high net worth individuals, or UNHWI.

New «Great Wealth» Unit

Impact investing, or investing to generate a social or environmental benefit along with a financial return, was given to Simon Smiles, who is the CIO of UHNWI.

The non-finance part of Marconi's job was put into a unit called Great Wealth Solutions. UBS wants to build this new unit into a center of competence for philanthropy where the ultra-rich are advised in matters of charity, art investing, and family and succession planning.

Not Without Controversy

UBS sold the restructuring as evidence of the success of its philanthropy efforts, but the fact remains that Marconi, the philanthropy veteran, lost out in the revamp.

Marconi, who had led a team of 50 people before the reorganization, was effectively stripped of his management responsibilities.

Marconi appears to have been a controversial leader at UBS: he suffered a veritable staff exodus in 2013, when 15 private bankers left the philanthropy unit in quick succession.

Successful Efforts?

The departures undermined Marconi's and Zeltner's bold growth predictions for UBS Philanthropy, including making the Swiss bank the leading global provider.

Zeltner had targeted at least 1 percent of assets under management to be managed in philanthropic or sustainable investments. UBS didn't comment on how close it is to this target.

The bank's head of impact investment, Andreas Ernst, left UBS earlier this year, as reported.

New Return Approach

UBS hasn't dropped its philanthropic ambitions. Its in-house foundation, Optimus, recently invested in a prototype development impact bond, or DIB, which is linked to getting Indian children into school.

The return of the bond, which could hit 15 percent, is linked to success rates of attendance and literacy. The instrument issued by the Children's Investment Fund Foundation, or CIFF, a charity run by hedge fund manager Chris Hohn, in a deal that was struck at a UBS charitable event in St. Moritz.


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