Haas honors Wall Street pioneer Margo Alexander for lifetime achievement

Margo Alexander
Margo Alexander, BS 68, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Photo: Amy Sussman/AP Images for Berkeley Haas.

Margo Alexander, BS 68, the retired CEO and chairman of UBS Global Asset Management who blazed a trail for women in the financial services industry, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 17th annual Haas Gala November 2.

The award recognizes members of the Berkeley Haas community who have achieved prominence in their fields. Alexander is the seventh person to be given a Lifetime Achievement Award from Haas, and its first female recipient.

During her career, Alexander was one of the first women to head a large asset management business. She was also the first woman to head a top-ranked research department and to oversee a major trading floor—doing it all while raising two sons with her late husband, Robert.

Haas Interim Dean Laura Tyson underscored the tenacity required to break those glass ceilings. “When Margo began her career, the behavior toward women in the financial services industry was appalling,” Tyson said. “She was able to handle difficult situations, successfully working with men and always trying to mitigate inequities by hiring and supporting women. As she moved through the ranks, she was able to influence how organizations behaved in those arenas.”

“Margo is the best!”

Her influence on employees was profound. “She changed the DNA of the firm,” said Mary C. Farrell, whom Alexander recruited and who retired in 2005 as chief investment strategist for UBS Wealth Management, USA, and co-head of the Wealth Management Research department. “She ran a trading desk full of young guys who said, ‘I’ll never work for a woman.’ Within a year they were saying, ‘Margo is the best!’ She had an extraordinary ability to connect with anyone.”

After retiring from UBS in 2003, Alexander joined Acumen, a global nonprofit changing the way the world tackles poverty by investing in sustainable businesses, leaders, and ideas. Alexander served as board chair for nine years of Acumen’s first decade, and, as chair emeritus, continues as a board member.

Alexander’s traditional financial services expertise complemented Acumen’s social impact mission, said Tyson. “She played a pivotal role in building Acumen’s model.”

To date, Acumen has invested $110 million to build more than 102 social enterprises in countries including Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan, India, Colombia, and the U.S. These companies have created and supported 60,000 jobs and brought basic services like affordable education, health care, clean water, energy, and sanitation to more than 200 million people.

Brett Wilson. Photo: Karl Nielsen Photography
TubeMogul CEO Brett Wilson. Photo: Karl Nielsen Photography

Alexander also extends her wisdom and support to Berkeley Haas. She has helped to boost the number of female students at Haas and to create Haas’ Institute for Business & Social Impact. She is on the senior advisory board for the Center for Responsible Business and has served on the Haas School Board since 2001.

Other alumni honored

Three other alumni also received awards at the Gala. Brett Wilson, MBA 07, received the Leading Through Innovation Award. Wilson revolutionized digital advertising by making it more simple, accountable, and transparent as co-founder and CEO of TubeMogul.

Wilson began the company with fellow student John Hughes, MBA 07, in an entrepreneurship class at Haas. The two grew the company into a tour de force, named one of the fastest-growing companies by Inc. and Deloitte and among the best places to work by Fortune, the San Francisco Business Times, and Glassdoor. They finally sold two years ago to Adobe for $540 million. Wilson now serves as Adobe’s VP of advertising and joined Adobe’s board of directors this year.

Also at the Gala, the annual Raymond E. Miles Alumni Service Award was presented to Abbey Breshears, MBA 15, and Brandon Doll, MBA 14, for their outstanding service to the MBA Worldwide Admissions Volunteer Effort (MBA WAVE) at Berkeley Haas.