Background: Bob McCann is the CEO of UBS Group Americas, a global financial services firm. He is a board member of the American Ireland Fund.

Tell us about your Irish heritage.

“My great-great-grandfather moved the family to Scotland from outside of Belfast around 1850, so I'm third-generation Irish American. 

“But my family didn't talk much about our Irish roots growing up. Their philosophy was not to look back, but rather forward with a focus on the future. And they gave me and my brother everything we needed to succeed in life—love and access to education. So I really only began reconnecting with the Irish community in the late 1990s.”

You worked at Merrill Lynch for many years before joining UBS. How did you get your start in finance?

“When I was in business school at Texas Christian University, I had the opportunity to intern at Bass Brothers for Richard Rainwater and Tom Taylor. I was the first intern they ever had on a very small trading room, where everyone used speaker phones. So, I could hear both sides of the conversation.

“It's where I got exposed to markets and trading, and I was hooked immediately.“ 

You are the founder of the Learning Center at Bethany College in West Virginia and the Student Investment Fund. Can you tell us a little about these initiatives?

“Education has always been very important to me, and Bethany is the major reason for that. I was the first in my family to go to college, and so my years at Bethany were truly transformative. 

“They gave me the knowledge, skills and confidence to go out and pursue my goals. And I wouldn't be where I am today, if not for the education I received or the great professors I had along the way.

“And so the Learning Center was an opportunity for my wife, Cindy, and I to provide additional support for students, in particular those with learning challenges. The Student Investment Fund is based on a class I took in graduate school at TCU, which gives students an opportunity to manage a real investment portfolio. For students interested in careers in investments, it's the best training you could have.”

You have described your Irish citizenship as “one of the greatest honors I have ever received.” 

“Ireland and the Irish people have come to mean more to me than I ever imagined possible. To be a part of Ireland and give back to this great country is a blessing.”

What is the most memorable Irish project you have contributed to?

“The work I did with the American Ireland Fund to bring Sesame Street to the kids of Northern Ireland to help teach principles of tolerance and respect. It was one of the first projects I engaged on earlier in my career, which is probably why it's the most memorable. 

“But it enabled me to see that you can make a difference and help change a community for the better. You just need to surround yourself with the right people.”

How will you and your family celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

“We'll be together in Florida.”

What are the three words that sum up St. Patrick’s Day for you?

“Family, fun, pride.”

nterview by Molly Muldoon

Bob McCann is the CEO of UBS Group Americas and board member of the American Ireland Fund