Most Powerful Women in Finance: No. 22, UBS' Paula Polito

Register now

Client Strategy Officer and Group Managing Director | UBS Wealth Management Americas

Politics has been on just about everyone's mind, but it is also a minefield topic that many people in business were just as happy to avoid.

Not Paula Polito and her team at UBS. As the U.S. presidential campaign unfolded last year, clients of all political stripes were anxious about the impact of the election on their financial well-being. That anxiety led 30% of investors to raise cash and 25% to consider pulling out of the market.

Though UBS' investor surveys showed health care and national security were important issues, the No. 1 client concern was the economy. But many advisers were reluctant to talk to their clients about it because they didn't want to fire up political debates.

So Polito decided to launch a program to help advisers proactively engage in these conversations by focusing on the economy, not politics. The program, which included bipartisan research to identify investors' views, received a lot of media coverage.

See the most recent rankings:
Most Powerful Women in Banking
Women to Watch
Most Powerful Women in Finance

Clients noticed and, UBS research indicates, they felt grateful and more positive about their financial condition, regardless of their political affiliation. Most importantly, the effort succeeded in making them comfortable enough to stay focused on long-term goals by remaining in the market.

"To me, the most important leadership quality is to take risks," Polito said. "I always say, 'You have to play to win. You can't play not to lose.' "

Polito, who leads 350 employees accountable for $160 billion in assets, has demonstrated her comfort with risk in more ways than one. UBS credits her with transforming its equity plan business, which ranked No. 1 among all stock plan providers in several key categories assessed by the independent research firm Group 5. Corporate plan sponsors often rely on the research from Group 5 to choose an equity plan provider.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.