Robert J. McCann

CEO, UBS Group Americas
Bethany College (WV), Class of 1980
Robert J. McCann Headshot

​​William Butler Yeats once said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” My liberal arts education from Bethany College lit a fire that has sparked a successful career in business and a lifelong passion for learning.​

Since graduating with an economics degree in 1980 and completing an MBA from Texas Christian University, I have built a 30+ year career in business. The technical skills I gained as an undergraduate have been invaluable. My math classes taught me to reason and think through a problem, my English classes helped me communicate clearly and effectively, and my economics classes gave me a deeper understanding of how our capital markets work. These are qualities that I bring to bear daily in my role as CEO of UBS Group Americas. My coursework in the humanities and social sciences were equally important. These classes provided a framework for me to think critically about the arts, philanthropy, and current affairs—topics that come up in nearly every conversation I have with clients.
Just as important as my classes were the people I met. My professors and fellow students opened my eyes to a world beyond my hometown of Pittsburgh, and the small size of the campus encouraged collaboration and teamwork. In fact, Bethany was a great precursor to working in partnership with my leadership team at UBS.
So my liberal arts education laid the groundwork for a successful career, but it also helped me become a more well‐rounded individual. For instance, I took an independent study course on the works of John Steinbeck, one of America’s finest novelists. As an adult, I still draw inspiration from his books. And in a course called “Cowboys, Gangsters, and Private Eyes,” I learned to appreciate Westerns, mysteries, and thrillers. Dr. Larry Grimes, who taught this class, also introduced me to the films of Francis Ford Coppola and Alfred Hitchcock. While many people think The Godfather and Vertigoare entertainment, Dr. Grimes taught me that they are something more—works of art.
These are just a few examples of the value of a liberal education. There are many more. What I learned at Bethany is still fresh in my mind, and whenever I’m asked by young people about what it takes to succeed in college, my advice is this: Use your classes as building blocks to help you grow personally and professionally. College is a time to explore new ideas and gain the skills that will help you succeed. A liberal arts education is designed to help you do just that. My experience at Bethany helped me build a rewarding, meaningful career in business, but it also brought people like Steinbeck, Coppola, and Hitchcock into my life. For that, I am tremendously grateful.

Robert McCann is CEO of UBS Group Americas and a member of UBS’s Group Executive Board. In his position as CEO, he continues to strengthen UBS’s leading Wealth Management Americas (WMA) franchise, while integrating and finding synergies among the Investment Bank and Asset Management divisions. Since McCann took the helm as CEO of WMA in October 2009, his turnaround strategy has stemmed asset outflows and returned the division to consistent profitability.
Prior to joining UBS, McCann had a 26-year career at Merrill Lynch, during which he held various leadership positions throughout the firm, including vice chair of Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., president of Global Wealth Management, head of Global Securities Research and Economics, chief operating officer of Global Markets and Investment Banking, and head of Global Equity Trading and Markets.
McCann sits on the board of a number of organizations that seek to educate and develop young talent, including Bethany College, where he established the McCann Learning Center and the McCann Family Student Investment Fund, which provide students with the respective opportunities to enrich their learning skills and manage investments in the real-world financial markets; the American Ireland Fund, a charitable network of the Irish diaspora dedicated to supporting peace, reconciliation, culture, education, and community development in Ireland; and No Greater Sacrifice, an organization that funds the education of children of military personnel who have been wounded or killed in the line of duty.