Jim Ducey of UBS Wealth Management Americas: “Take the pulse of your current culture/environment”

Take the pulse of your current culture/environment. This can be done by surveying your employees on their sentiment regarding overall office culture and environment. As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Ducey. Jim Ducey is the Market Head for […]

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Take the pulse of your current culture/environment. This can be done by surveying your employees on their sentiment regarding overall office culture and environment.

As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Ducey.

Jim Ducey is the Market Head for Greater New England of UBS Wealth Management Americas where he oversees the domestic business within 11 offices in and surrounding Boston as well as the Northern New England area. He oversees approximately 270 financial advisors and over $50 billion in client assets. With a focus on providing unparalleled service to both employees and clients, Jim has worked to create a culture that he refers to as “the Best Place in Town.” The Best Place reflects the best most competent Financial Advisors, the best most competent Client Service Associates, the best most tenured operations team, the most supportive and responsive management team, and lastly the most professional facility and environment. Jim’s aim for the Greater New England Market is to be the firm of choice for Wealth Management advice in the communities we serve.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I originally planned on attending law school after college, but instead obtained a job in the financial services industry the summer after I graduated. The energy and enthusiasm I witnessed was contagious, and I fell in love with the business and never looked back.

I started as a Client Service Associate (CSA) in wealth management where I primarily completed administrative work, and later went on to become a Financial Advisor (FA), a title I held for many years. One of my mentors went on to pursue a career in management. I followed in their footsteps and quickly learned that I gained more personal satisfaction as a coach helping others succeed than I did as an FA. Eventually, I chose to scale back on interfacing with clients and focused 100% of my energy on my management career. My early experience as a CSA gave me a unique perspective on how critical a support role is in attracting and maintaining client relationships. Most managers and leaders I’ve come across in my career paid most of their attention towards the FAs and often ignored one of their most important resources — the people who support them.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

In my current role as Greater New England Market Head, I meet regularly with small groups of support staff to discuss career objectives and help them explore potential career paths. One in particular expressed her interest in trading and portfolio management, so I arranged for her to spend time shadowing a trader on an equities desk. She fell in love with that part of the business and I encouraged her to pursue that career. Several years later I ran into her and asked how she was doing. She told me she’d transitioned through several areas of the trading operation and was now a Portfolio Manager responsible for several billion dollars in client assets. It was so fulfilling to see that someone I mentored was able to find their niche and to know that I played a role in helping them get there was extremely humbling.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

The financial services industry is historically a male dominated business, yet more than 50% of the wealth in the US is controlled by women. I’ve identified a group of women in my market who have expressed an interest in becoming an FA, and most of them are currently in support and administrative roles. I’ve met with each of them individually to better understand their backgrounds and skill sets and since then, we’ve begun to meet bi-weekly as a group with a goal to best prepare them for a successful future as an FA. Most of our successful FAs are on teams and they’re often looking for new talent to join them. My objective is to help this group develop their skills and value proposition in the hope that they’ll be recruited to existing teams within UBS, or so that they’re best prepared to build their own.

According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

I don’t think leaders spend enough time focusing on the environment people work in each day. We often spend more time at work than we do with family and loved ones, so it’s important to get it right. Early in my career I developed a concept called “The Best Place in Town”. I had my team describe what they would consider a great place to work, and then established a steering committee to help us build that environment and overall culture. We use positive adjectives like professional, collaborative, supportive, respectful and fun, and I’ve found that there’s a genuine sense of pride among my team with what we’ve built. They even have branded hats! This of course is a journey and not a destination, as creating a positive work environment needs to be a continuous evolution, but it’s definitely a great start.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

Employee turnover is extremely expensive and kills productivity — caring about your colleagues and team members costs nothing. We have a very specialized industry where experienced employees are valued at a premium by our competitors. Therefore, it’s important to maintain the right company environment that feels welcoming, inclusive and invested in the progression of talent.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

  1. Take the pulse of your current culture/environment. This can be done by surveying your employees on their sentiment regarding overall office culture and environment.
  2. Create a steering committee to evaluate the responses so that any underlying issues can be addressed quickly and efficiently, in a team-based setting for successful collaboration.
  3. Establish a vision. Consider what this may look like to you as a leader, as well as what this will look like for the employees you work with.
  4. Identify opportunities that can have immediate impact if addressed.
  5. Communicate the vision and follow-up regularly to make sure you this still works for your team.

I’ve actually used this process in multiple businesses I’ve led with great success. One question I always ask myself is: What can we do as a society to change the culture within the US workforce? We need to better understand what’s important to the various generations, as priorities change and we need to adapt. For example, millennials are concerned about the impact we have in our communities, so we need to have programs in place that foster community involvement and volunteerism.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

My goal is to help each member of my team reach their full potential. I see myself as an advisor and coach, and meet regularly with my team to discuss professional development. This enables me to create a strong bond with them, built on a foundation of trust.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am grateful for many people who have influenced me throughout my career. When I was promoted to run the UBS Boston Market, which has recently expanded to the UBS Greater New England Market, a man called Steve Brown was my line manager. I’ve learned more from Steve in these past 10 years than any one individual in my career. Steve taught me how to live with purpose and in abundance. He taught me that my greatest resource is the people I lead and if I’m successful in helping them reach their goals, then I in turn will reach mine.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have a plaque on my desk that I make sure to look at every day. It reads as follows:

My Purpose and Truth. My ultimate mission.
To be the man, the father, the leader that god intended me to be.
To be a loving husband, father, grandfather, son and brother.
To be happy and make sure my family is safe and provided for.
To be a person whose character, honesty and compassion for others is beyond reproach.
To be an extraordinary leader who helps people reach their full potential.

It serves as a constant reminder that I can use the success I’ve had in my career to help positively influence the broader aspects of my life and to help and care for those around me.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Be kind; Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” I’ve learned that even in the worst of times, someone out there is having much bigger issues than I am. It’s taught me to exercise patience and seek to understand before I try to be understood.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

To inspire people to live their lives in abundance of the things that truly matter: Family, friendship and happiness.

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