At Global Wealth Firm UBS, CSR Success Comes from Tapping into the Passions of Clients and Employees


Why one of the world’s leading investment and financial services firms joined the Satell Institute.

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Ever feel like tossing a pie in your boss’s face?

A group of fun-loving employees at global wealth management firm UBS got the chance to do exactly that not long ago — as long as they were willing to pony up support for nonprofits first. The occasion was the launch of UBS’s annual “Season of Service,” an employee volunteer initiative that last year attracted more than 10,000 UBS team members who volunteered more than 57,000 hours.

“It was very fun and people loved it,” Julie Fox, market executive for UBS Private Wealth Management in Philadelphia and D.C., says of the pie-throwing kickoff, which (after a UBS match) raised upwards of $10,000 for nonprofits. “We try to be creative.”

Creativity is at the heart of UBS’s approach to Corporate Social Responsibility. The firm — which has a presence in more than 50 countries around the world and which recently joined the Satell Institute — strategically partners with its clients and employees, effectively multiplying their philanthropic and CSR efforts. It’s an approach that creates benefits for nonprofits and communities — and for UBS.

“We think that community support is an impact multiplier,” says Fox. “It not only helps nonprofits and the communities we’re serving, but our giving and volunteer programs add to the culture in our offices across the world. People feel like they’re part of something.”

UBS thinks about CSR on two levels. Locally, it offers generous matching gifts when employees contribute to the nonprofits of their choice. “Many of our employees have their own philanthropic interests, and we want to make sure we’re supporting them,” Fox says, noting that last year UBS made direct cash contributions across the Americas of $22 million.

Globally, the firm’s signature effort is the UBS Optimus Foundation. In this unique initiative, UBS underwrites the cost of the foundation, then partners with its clients by matching the gifts they make to nonprofits. In addition to being an impact multiplier when it comes to philanthropy, it deepens the relationships between UBS and its clients. “It’s pretty unique,” Fox says of the foundation, “and for clients it’s a differentiator.”

Among the programs UBS has funded is the Decade of Black Innovation, a set of initiatives led by the Black Innovation Alliance. UBS made a $3 million commitment over three years to expand the innovation economy by investing in infrastructure that supports Black entrepreneurs and innovators. UBS is also active in disaster relief, helping to ease the burden after tragedies like the wildfires in Maui.

The firm’s willingness to give back in such impactful ways is a game changer for younger team members in particular. “These are folks who are really ambitious and aspirational, but not just in one direction,” says Elijah Dornstreich, a longtime financial services professional who, along with his team, joined UBS in late 2023. “It’s not just about profit for them; they’re ambitious and aspirational in terms of their own impact, which to me is pretty impressive.” Dornstreich notes that when UBS matches team members’ charitable contributions, it makes a real difference. “You can’t imagine how meaningful that is for them and how much more depth of purpose that gives to them. It really pumps them up, and it brings the team together.”

It was Dornstreich — a longtime member of the Satell Institute’s advisory board — who introduced Fox to SI, which led, in turn, to UBS becoming a member.

Because of his long association with the Satell Institute, Dornstreich has a deep appreciation for the organization’s impact.

“It was very obvious to me from the beginning that Ed Satell, as in everything he does, had an ingenious and disruptive model for what he wanted to do with the Satell institute,” says Dornstreich. “Companies were already doing CSR, but Ed found a way to enable them to do more of it and give back even more into our region.”

SI’s impact and strong spirit is most palpable at its private CEO Conferences. Fox attended her first one in May, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, and came away impressed not only by the programming but by the opportunity to share ideas and experiences with other influential business leaders. “I really enjoyed the breakout sessions. You don’t necessarily always get those at conferences — the chance to really engage the people at the table and build rapport and relationships.”

Dornstreich, who’s served on the conference committees for most of SI’s CEO conferences, says such a reaction is typical.

“People don’t always know what they’re getting invited to,” he says. “And then they walk into a place like the Constitution Center, and there’s a flag roughly the size of a tennis court flying over the words of the Constitution, and there’s 500 people in the room. The scale and professionalism and intensity of purpose … it’s a very magnetic and dramatic experience. That’s what Ed has created.”

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