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Reputation and Brand Management

Situation

Faced with fierce competition from traditional rivals, as well as discount brokerage firms like Charles Schwab & Co., Paine Webber Group Inc. sought to reinforce the vital role of sound investment advice for wealthy individuals — the cornerstone of its business strategy and operating model.

Strategy

  • Articulate the value of working with financial professionals and employing a consultative investing process to achieve financial goals.
  • Promote the concept of “personal CFOs” to demonstrate how PaineWebber advisors work with clients to develop customized solutions based on their individual needs and goals, rather than specializing in sales of specific products and services.
  • Conduct ongoing opportunistic media relations to reinforce the advantages of PaineWebber’s strategic focus on delivering financial advice and related services to high net worth and affluent individuals through highly trained investment professionals.

Results

PaineWebber’s “personal CFO” approach was featured widely in The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones News Service and other national, regional and trade media publications.

Targeted media coverage in the Houston Business Journal and other regional publications supported market-specific recruiting efforts to hire non-traditional candidates, such as attorneys, accountants, teachers and other professionals who cultivate deep trust-based relationships, and train them as financial advisors.

This reputation and brand management public relations program also generated prominent coverage of Paine Webber Group Inc. and its various businesses in national, regional and financial industry media, including Fortune magazine, The Wall Street Journal, the Bond Buyer, Wall Street & Technology (web archive and PDF) and other national publications.

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Crisis Communications

Situation

Historically, many investors purchased auction rate securities (ARS) as short-term investments instead of holding cash because they typically generated higher returns than cash in traditional savings accounts.

During the financial crisis, the market for ARS became illiquid, which meant that clients could not buy or sell the securities to cover their expenses, including income tax obligations. As a result, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the attorneys general of Massachusetts, New York, Texas and several other states sued UBS and other firms on behalf of investors who held the illiquid ARS. As a leading underwriter of the illiquid securities, UBS was fined $150 million and required to buy $20 billion of illiquid ARS from its customers.

Strategy

  • Translate requirements of complex legal settlement into the most friendly client communications possible to explain reimbursement process for illiquid securities.
  • Leverage Financial Advisors and their relationships with clients to respond to confusion or concerns of clients who were eligible for remuneration from the firm’s legal settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission and attorneys general of specific states.
  • Disseminate consistent messages as needed to all relevant audiences regarding the firm’s legal settlement with its various regulators.

Result

  • Forced decision-making at Steering Committee meetings when it appeared that UBS might not meet its 45-day notification requirements to affected investors.
  • Reached 99% of clients and repurchased all eligible ARS 18 months ahead of deadline through 20 highly complex mailings to more than 47,000 clients who were eligible for the ARS buyback program.
  • Advised business unit CEO, wrote client apology letter  for having sold the illiquid ARS and persuaded legal counsel to approve it; monitored and responded to negative and positive client feedback.
  • Developed communications strategy and managed all related communications activities with clients; firm management, investor and media relations, as well as Fixed Income trading, Operations, IT and other stakeholders.
  • Led communications workstream and participated in daily Steering Committee (mornings) and Operations/IT Update (evenings) meetings.
  • Worked closely with product and litigation attorneys to produce plain-English (client-friendly) offer letters and designed template to meet strict legal requirements.
  • Translated settlement requirements to clearly defined business rules to ensure the correct clients were notified.
  • Oversaw development of internal communications and related training materials for Financial Advisors and Client Service Associates to ensure they understood the eligibility requirements and overall buyback process.

 

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Building A Global Team

SituationVision, Goal, Mission

As part of a global restructuring, UBS’s newly global Market Strategy & Development (MS&D) group combined two separate internal communications teams for the U.S. and Swiss businesses with dramatically different communications strategies into one, nine-person team with people in Weehawken, N.J. and Zurich, Switzerland, who were charged with supporting MS&D’s expanded mandate.

Highly collaborative, the executive who was named to head MS&D assembled a diverse leadership team to develop a shared mission and strategy for the group, one that would require significant cultural and behavioral change for the 2,000+ employees worldwide.

To achieve the group’s new mission and longer term strategic goals, an internal communications strategy emphasizing face-to-face communications was developed to engage employees, build a common culture for the group worldwide and unleash 2,000+ catalysts on the organization to deliver compelling and consistent client experiences to UBS customers around the world.

Unfortunately, all of the Swiss internal communications staff viewed themselves as either “writers,” “project managers” or “publishers,” not as “communications professionals.” As such, the communications focused primarily on intranet articles and other informational content that depended on employees to “pull” content rather than a more traditional “push” strategy that was needed to create those 2,000+ catalysts and drive change. As a result, a plan was necessary to create “communications catalysts” who would then help catalyze the larger organization.

Strategy

  • Establish “internal communications” as a change management function that drives strategic messages through the organization instead of simply delivering information to employees.
  • Build a team of communications professionals globally who advise business leaders consistently on ways to shape and drive necessary change.
  • Develop tools and provide coaching and ongoing support to individual team members to expand their role from functional expert to true communications strategists.

ResultTeamwork and Collaboration

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Cultural Change Management

SituationCatalyst (300x200)

In 2005, UBS created global support functions in Global Wealth Management & Business Banking as part of a worldwide reorganization of its core business. Previously organized by region or country, the new structure combined all product management, marketing, operations and information technology functions in one global entity.

Market Strategy & Development (MS&D), which placed all human capital-related functions in one group, was one of the new global functions. With a mission to “act as catalysts to create and compelling and consistent client experiences,” MS&D was charged help the firm deliver differentiated service experiences worldwide and accelerate advisor productivity.

In addition to encompassing diverse business support functions, MS&D’s 2,000+ employees worldwide also represented multiple ethnicities, nationalities, corporate cultures and languages — all with differing views of wealth management, work responsibilities and general mindsets.

Strategy

  • Convert MS&D’s mission into action by empowering MS&D employees to think and act as proxies for clients — even if the service gaps they identified were beyond the scope of their jobs.
  • Promote a global leadership team and emphasize face-to-face communications between managers and employees to drive cultural change throughout the organization.

Results

  • Generated 80 percent awareness of MS&D’s global mission and common mindset in 18 months despite language, cultural and regional differences by developing “We are Catalysts” program.
  • Produced 18+ face-to-face events annually, reaching every MS&D employee worldwide at least four times, by mandating the executive team to lead regional town meetings per year when they traveled outside their home market.
  • Reinforced regional face-to-face events with complementary line manager communications program to support more strategic and productive conversations between managers and employees.

 

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Financial Services Public Relations

Results from The PaineWebber/Gallup Poll of Investor Attitudes

Video highlights of award-winning Index of Investor Optimism public relations program.

Situation

Perennially ranked third among national full-service brokerage firms, PaineWebber Incorporated sought to differentiate itself in the national media from competitors with significantly larger advertising and marketing budgets.

Strategy

  • Partner with the Gallup Organization to create the Index of Investor Optimism, the first monthly poll of affluent investors, which would be tracked over time by the news media and other key constituents.
  • Leverage the Index brand as a platform for proactive public relations activities and marketing tools for use by Financial Advisors with clients and prospects, as well as investor education.
Branding for the Index of Investor Optimism.

Branding for the Index of Investor Optimism.

Results

Data from the PaineWebber Index of Investor Optimism formed the cornerstone of ongoing media relations activities, as well as thought leadership for firm executives and investor education for use by Financial Advisors with clients and prospects.

Index-related content comprised special survey topics, monthly results, news releases and pitch letters to generate media coverage, as well as Beyond the Basics, an investor education program. Over time, the team explored whether to establish the Index as a formal economic indicator and identify other opportunities to extend the Index brand beyond the core monthly survey.

Highlights are shown below; click here for a detailed summary of the Silver Anvil and Big Apple award-winning program. View a video of program highlights.

Warren Buffett discussed PaineWebber's findings in Fortune magazine.

Warren Buffett discussed PaineWebber’s findings in Fortune magazine.

  • Generated more than 86 million media impressions in traditional and online media, excluding extensive wire coverage.
  • Survey findings were featured in President Clinton’s 1998 State of the Union address.
  • Warren Buffett cited Index data in an interview with Carol Loomis of Fortune magazine (click here for a PDF of the article that highlights the citation).
  • Yale researcher Robert Schiller referenced the findings in his book, Irrational Exuberance.
  • Won Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil award in 2001 and PRSA New York Chapter’s Big Apple award in 2000.

In addition to the monthly poll findings, the Index program also included in-depth research on specific topics, including:

Finally, data from the monthly Index polls and the special reports was used to create Beyond the Basics, a comprehensive investor education program with a national media component and seminars and marketing materials for Financial Advisors.