J. Weber '71
Weber helps the 'virtuous circle' go around
his own estimation, Alan J. Weber has done well for himself:
The 1971 Kellogg School graduate says he has a great family,
a career studded with prestigious leadership roles, ample
opportunities to travel, and has earned a comfortable living.
lingering gripe is his golf handicap. "The only thing that
gets me is I can't hit the little ball where I want it to
go," Weber says, laughing.
the tyranny of the back nine, the chairman and CEO of U.S.
Trust Corp., a venerable 151-year-old wealth management firm
based in New York, with offices in more than a dozen states,
knows his success owes something to good fortune as well as
his own hard work.
not like I can say I worked 40 hours a day and that's
why I'm a success," says Weber, 56, who assumed his current
role in 2002. "I had the right boss once, I was in the right
country once, they gave me the right business once. A lot
of things happened. When you develop an understanding that
there's no direct line up the ladder of success, you begin
to reach out in different directions and plant seeds. And
one of these seeds entails helping others, because people
have helped you."
attitude — Weber calls it "a virtuous circle" —
motivates the longtime member of the Kellogg Alumni Advisory
Board (KAAB) to contribute his expertise, time and financial
support to initiatives that build the reputation and effectiveness
of Kellogg. In so doing, he helps the school offer others
a chance at the same top-flight leadership education that
has helped shape his career.
actions also have contributed to strengthening the Kellogg
alumni network. Through his participation in the Kellogg School
Executive Leadership Circle (ELC), an ongoing initiative designed
to bring together senior alumni for special lifelong learning
and social experiences, Weber was among those instrumental
in organizing a recent ELC ethics panel in New York City,
attracting dozens of alumni and Kellogg Dean Dipak C. Jain.
The "very successful" event involved role-playing to dig deeper
into ethical issues. (Weber says he adopted the guise of a
"bad guy" for the day, but given his amicable, down-to-earth
demeanor, one wonders how convincing he was in this role.)
chose nonprofit management as a career because I wanted
to make a difference in people's lives. This field is
the ultimate management challenge, involving all elements
of leadership: strategy, analysis, consensus-building,
making decisions with imperfect information, taking risks
and balancing ethical considerations. Whether you do this
as a paid staff member or volunteer, you know that what
you do really matters." Julie
Tye '78, president and CEO of The Cradle Society, Evanston,
years, Weber has also opened his homes to the Kellogg School,
hosting special events for its alumni and senior administration,
including gatherings worldwide when his job — particularly
the 27 years he served in senior leadership roles at Citibank
N.A. from 1971 to 1998 — had him occasionally living
abroad in Europe and Asia.
MBA grad and Wharton economics major seems to view these efforts
as something any grateful alum might do to help out.
involved with the school because I got a lot out of my Kellogg
education and from being associated with Kellogg, especially
as the brand has done so well over the years," says Weber.
"That success enhances my own reputation, so I feel that I
should participate in these affairs to the extent that I can
help perpetuate this dynamic."
also notes that his Kellogg involvement allows him to meet
a variety of extraordinary peers whom he might not otherwise
well excuse Weber from devoting much time to activities that
take him away from his corporate responsibilities, considerable
as they are. Indeed, as CEO of U.S. Trust, a firm founded
in 1853 by John Aikman Stewart, an actuary who would go on
to serve as Abraham Lincoln's treasurer during the Civil War
and who logged some 70 years with the company, Weber oversees
a host of sophisticated financial and fiduciary services for
U.S. Trust's affluent clientele.
the firm's rich history, does Weber ever feel special pressure
to keep the founder's ghost happy?
have that sense of history, and you have a huge responsibility,"
says the Kellogg alum. "You're responsible for people's wealth,
and even though financial markets are not always predictable
and you have bad markets occasionally, you feel personally
responsible. You are the fiduciary. Whenever you're involved
in a company, especially one that's 151 years old, you want
to be sure you can pass the baton."
man shouldering this responsibility, Weber exudes —
not arrogance — but the quiet confidence of someone
who has built a long career and benefited from years of experience
and insight. He describes his leadership style as more collaborative
and subscribes to the school of thought that says people must
have the opportunity to learn by doing.
to find very talented people and give them the opportunity
to make their own mistakes," says Weber. "You have to give
them direction, but you can't be involved in the decisions
that they need to make day-to-day. They need to develop."
Walling, president and CEO of U.S. Trust Company, N.A., has
worked with Weber since 1991 and had the chance to observe
him in action. "Alan has the amazing ability to sift through
issues very objectively," sorting them down to a few critical
levers and "eliminating all noise," says Walling.
the best I've seen," he adds. "Alan gets people to focus on
the things that matter. He's calm under fire and can marshal
the necessary resources to rationally address those critical
effectiveness may have something to do with his conviction
that leaders should not "delegate down" jobs that they themselves
don't know how to do, and that executives should continually
build employee confidence when those colleagues do things
right. But the leader must also be able to handle bad news.
very important," he states. "You have to be able to tell people
when they've made a mistake that you will work together to
get out of a jam."
nothing gives Weber more professional satisfaction than meeting
an "unbelievable business challenge" and accomplishing the
goal with a team.
of mentorship and team leadership informs Weber's service
to the Kellogg School, where he continues his service on the
KAAB and looks forward to participating in future ELC events.
of Kellogg," says Weber. "I feel good when I write down what
school I attended, and it's up to us as alumni to enhance
that reputation, not only because Kellogg has helped us and
continues to do so,
but to give back and help secure the school's future."
to Seth Bergstein '92
to Why alumni give back