26 April 2024 • Alums The Future of Finance By Andrew Wickenden '09

President of UBS Investment Bank Rob Karofsky ’89 considers the state of domestic and global economies, the impact of his time at HWS and the importance of organizational culture.

President of UBS Investment Bank Rob Karofsky ’89 talks during the President's Forum.

In a wide-ranging conversation with President Mark D. Gearan and HWS community members, President of UBS Investment Bank Rob Karofsky ’89 shared insights from his decades of experience as a leader in the financial services industry.

During the President’s Forum event this month, which kicked off the HWS Volunteer Leadership Summit, Karofsky assessed economic trends, organizational leadership and his career in finance.

Looking at the state of the national economy, Karofsky said it “continues to chug along.” Globally, “the U.S. is still the dog that wags the tail,” and there remains “a lot of uncertainty.”

“We’re still constructive and we think the economy is okay,” he said, but between questions around global energy, conflict in the Middle East and Central Europe, and tensions between China and Taiwan, “there’s lots of things that keep us up at night.”

The conversation touched on the dynamic between populist politics and the economy, the Main Street–Wall Street relationship as well as cryptocurrency and the importance of “human capital” in finance.

As the head of one of the world’s largest multinational investment banks, Karofsky noted that “culture is everything.”

“That’s how you execute the strategy,” he said, explaining the missed opportunities “if you’re not inclusive, if you’re not collaborating, if you’re not a good teammate, if you’re not supportive…. Developing and nurturing mentorships, sponsorships, promoting diversity — all of these things are so critical.”

Karofsky also reflected on the value of a liberal arts education, the critical thinking and writing skills it teaches, and his time as a student working with Professor Emeritus of Economics Pat McGuire L.H.D. ’12.

“Working closely with Pat, doing an Honors project together — the confidence that grew inside of me set me up to be successful after I left Hobart and William Smith,” Karofsky said. “I wasn’t really sure what I was doing at the beginning, but at the end, the passion toward proving what we set out to prove was just an incredible journey…it was life changing.”

Established in 2000 by President Gearan, the President’s Forum Series brings a variety of speakers to campus to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty and staff, as well as with interested community members.

Karofsky began his career in financial services at Morgan Stanley as an oil analyst within the commodities business before joining the equities unit, where he became manager of the international equities desk and manager of US Delta One trading. He later held various regional and global leadership positions at Deutsche Bank and AllianceBernstein before joining UBS as Global Head of Equities in 2014. From 2018 to 2021, he served as co-president of UBS Investment Bank, and has been sole president from 2021 to date. He is a member of the UBS Group Executive Board.

As a student at HWS, Karofsky was a Durfee scholar, played football and was a member of Sigma Chi. He graduated with high Honors in economics and later earned an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

Top: President of UBS Investment Bank Rob Karofsky ’89 talks with President Mark D. Gearan during the President’s Forum.