Client Strategy Officer and Group Managing Director, UBS Wealth Management Americas
You learn a lot about how Paula Polito got to where she is — overseeing four businesses with $160 billion of assets — by asking how she landed her first job.
Decades ago, Polito walked into WBZ-TV in Boston and asked the station to hire her for the news team. The editors turned her away, saying she was too inexperienced, but they failed to discourage her.
"I went back, and I went back, and I went back," Polito said.
Finally, she made a deal. "I said, 'If you hire me for free for two weeks, I will prove to you that I belong.' "
Polito had a job as an assistant assignment editor two weeks later and eventually worked her way up to managing editor.
She has continued to raise her hand for demanding assignments ever since.
Polito, who started her career in financial services 25 years ago, is a member of the executive team for UBS Wealth Management Americas and one of 124 managing directors in the global parent company.
Over the past year, she has led a push into algorithm-driven investment advice. In May, UBS signed an agreement with SigFig, a San Francisco startup, to offer robo-advisory services. Polito oversaw the review that ultimately led to the deal. She is now in charge of integrating the service into the call center where advisers will use SigFig technology to work with clients.
A defining moment in her career came in 2009, when she was recruited from Merrill Lynch to join UBS as chief marketing officer for wealth management in the Americas. The business was struggling at the time, coming off the heels of the financial crisis.
During her four years in the position, she was part of the leadership team that helped get the business out of the red. The unit lost nearly $900 million in 2009; in 2015, it posted a $754 million profit.
Polito said she has learned throughout her career that success comes when you are not afraid to step out of your comfort zone. After leaving WBZ, she took a job at a marketing agency. During that time, she pitched Fidelity Investments on a project. Fidelity passed on the proposal — but offered her a job.
"You have to take every opportunity that comes your way," Polito said. "And sometimes the opportunity isn't there for you — you have to create it."