Most Powerful Women in Finance: No. 20, UBS' Paula Polito

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Global Client Strategy Officer and Group Managing Director,
UBS Global Wealth Management

UBS began this year by combining its wealth management units in the U.S. and abroad — a restructuring that led to a promotion for Paula Polito.

The Zurich-based banking giant turned to Polito to draw up the blueprint for connecting with clients around the world. She had been focused on its operations in the Americas previously.

In her newly expanded role as client strategy officer of UBS Global Wealth Management, Polito oversees the marketing, platforms and programs that shape the customer experience for a business that manages about $2.4 trillion in assets. This makes UBS the industry’s largest wealth manager, according to Scorpio Partnership, a U.K.-based research firm.

Polito is also now one of 17 people on the unit’s global executive committee.

Her promotion marked an endorsement of work that she pioneered over five years as client strategy officer for the wealth management business in the Americas. Polito, the first to hold that post after its creation in 2012, helped advisers better serve companies, their employees and wealthy investors, who collectively brought $2.5 billion of additional assets to UBS last year.

For the past two years, Polito has spearheaded a partnership between UBS and the financial technology provider SigFig that culminated in the April launch of UBS Advice Advantage, an automated platform that is her firm’s answer to the robo-adviser trend. She also packaged the firm’s insights for managing money into UBS Wealth Way, which replaces a more abstract approach to portfolio construction. It distills information in a targeted way that helps clients prioritize their financial needs.

Polito, who joined UBS in 2009 after nine years as head of marketing for the wealth business at Merrill Lynch, continues to champion the financial wherewithal of women.

In April, she published the results of a survey UBS commissioned of roughly 2,000 investors. It showed that women are often solely responsible for their household finances. Polito channeled the insight into an initiative titled “Own Your Worth,” a forum for creating a dialogue among women that Polito is working to build across the globe.

“Women have to empower themselves to see the big picture,” she told an audience at this year’s Women in the World Summit in New York. “We need to get to that conversation.”

Polito is fueling that conversation internally too. In December, a colleague Polito has mentored, Ryan McLaughlin, was named manager of the UBS office in Greenville, S.C., where she oversees 18 advisers.

McLaughlin credits Polito, who previously encouraged her to take a management job within the marketing department, to “raise her hand” and apply. “She said, ‘You can do this and I will help you,’” McLaughlin recalled. “She challenges you to be the best you can be.”

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