20 Things You Didn’t Know About Bill McNabb

BIll McNabb

William McNabb is an American businessman who is the former CEO of Vanguard. He has risen through the ranks in the business world to become one of the most respected authorities on leadership strategies and what it takes to run a successful business. He has since retired from his posts at the company, but his opinions and advisement are still in high demand. We looked into his past career and personal life to get to know who William McNabb is and how he came to become so successful. Here are 20 things that you didn’t know about William McNabb.

1. He worked his way up at Vanguard

William first joined Vanguard in 1986 with a firm knowledge of the investment management industry. He worked in subordinate positions until 2008, when he ws named the Chief Executive Officer of the company. Just two years later he was named to the board of trustees adn became chairman of the board of directors. He served in this capacity until 2017, when he stepped down from his post as CEO. The following year, he stepped down as chairman, moving into the retirement phase of his life.

2. He is still active as an advisor

Mr. McNabb may be retired from leading Vanguard, but he’s still busy helping others to run their organizations effectively. He is a board member of the UnitedHealth Group, as well as a board member of Ernst & Young’s Independent Audit Committee, for the Zoological Society of Philadelphia, and he’s a board member of CECP. His wisdom is solicited from many organizations that benefit from his years of experience and they’re happy to have his input on a variety of business-related topics.

3. He has an ivy league education

Mr. McNabb earned his MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, he completed his A.B. at Dartmouth College. These are both highly prestigious institutions of higher learning. It’s not easy to gain acceptance as only a small percentage of the prospective students who apply for admissions are actually confirmed and accepted for admission. Only the applicants with the highest grades and satisfactory past performance in social and civic activities are accepted. It’s a quite rigorous process.

4. McNabb supports higher education

As a graduate of the Wharton School, William is a notable alumnus. He hasn’t forgotten the institution where he received a quality education that prepared him for the outside business world, where he has achieved significant success. He serves on the Wharton School’s graduate executive board as well as on the advisory board for the Wharton Center for Leadership and Change Management, and he is also a member of the Dartmouth Athletic Advisory Board. In addition to these, he is the executive in residence at the Raj & Kamla Gupta Governance Institute at Le Bow College of Busines, and he also serves for a board at Columbia Law School.

5. Bill teaches through examples and comparisons

When Bill McNabb sets out to offer practical advice to students who are in the process of preparing for leadership roles, he breaks down the principles of building a high-performance team in a manner that students can relate to. In his talk at AMP, he addressed students with the metaphor of rowing and compared it to the business world. He draws on concepts that his audience is already familiar with, such as how to be a successful rower and how to win. He compares the environments, the effort that you put forth and some of teh psychological considerations to be made when building a high-performance team.

6. He encourages everyone to constantly challenge themselves

When it comes to growth, whether it’s personal or professional, it’s vital to constantly challenge oneself. This is Bill McNabb’s perspective on growth and development in the business world. He tells his audience that they must move out of their comfort zone in order to experience true growth and advancement and this is something that must be ongoing through life.

7. He’s retired but he’s as busy as ever

Bill might have retired from Vanguard, but he has so much knowledge to share that he’s not one to just sit around the house all day and watch reruns of his favorite shows. He’s out there in the real world doing what he can to share his wisdom with others. Since retiring, Bill has looked for different ways that he can share his expertise and experience and you can find him speaking to students in MBA programs as well as in other educational situations. He’s still as passionate about business and leadership as ever.

8. He believes in intellectual screening for candidates

McNabb still teaches leadership principles and instructs upcoming leaders that applicants for employment should be screened in accordance with their intellectual capacity. This is accomplished by reviewing their academic records. He also suggests that there should be further testing prior to making a selection, to ensure that potential employees have the intellectual capacity to perform in a variety of real-world situations on the job. These were requirements for employment at Vanguard.

9. He’s always teaching

McNabb consistently speaks to students and the leadership of organizations about the principles of leadership, and he goes into the small details about what goes into forming high-performing teams. Just as Bill tells leaders that we are always learning, he is always teaching and sharing his wisdom. He has long served as a teacher and coach. He has an AB degree in government and an MBA and he strongly believes in education in the classroom, but also that learning must continue all throughout one’s career, and particularly on the job.

10. He’s a family man

In addition to being an executive in the business world, a teacher and coach, Mr. McNabb also made time in his busy schedule to marry, and have children. He is married to his wife Katie. The couple has four children, Kerry, Tuck, Derick, Duncan, and Ian. The McNabbs live in Devon, Pennsylvania.

11. He maintains close connections with his rowing colleagues from Dartmouth

When Bill attended Dartmouth, he was a member of the rowing team. He draws many business principles from his time on the rowing team because this is where he learned how high-performing teams are built, and about the importance of working together towards a common goal. Bill is an accomplished rower and he shared that he remains close to the members of his rowing team from college even after all of these years have passed.

12. McNabb is also a long-distance bicyclist

We also learned that Bill McNabb is a long-distance bicyclist. He believes in keeping the body in the best possible condition and he does this by exercising regularly. This is something that we’ve seen in many high-powered executives who are high performers and notable leaders. Like Bill, most of them make sure to take good care of their health as it keeps the mind sharp for making important business decisions.

13. He believes in long term goals

When you review the interviews and speeches Bill McNabb has delivered you begin to get a grasp on who he is as a person as well as his professional views. He’s not the kind of guy who goes for instant gratification in his personal life or in his profession. He emphatically states that success is realized in the long term. He reinforces this belief through the example of making investments. Those which are carefully thought out and made to deliver over the long term are more likely to pay off in time, just as the application of hard work will take you further. He sees a goal at the end of a period of time and works with this in mind versus the short term.

14. He takes his responsibilities seriously

When Bill worked for Vanguard he maintained a high sense of responsibility. The company’s goal was to manage the investments made by their clients with the goal of making money and not losing it for them. He didn’t see Vanguard as a $1.3 trillion company, he saw it as 10 million families and he had an immense responsibility for properly handling their investments, hence it was up to him to ensure that the Vanguard team followed suit and worked together to accomplish this goal.

15. McNabb is against taking shortcuts

In Bill McNabb’s mind, there are no shortcuts. He maintains that long-term investments are the only way to go and when you invest for under 10 years you’re wasting your time. Staying the course for the long term is better than going for short term wins. He stated that “Ultimately there is no free lunch” and he applies this to investment strategies and warns against going to a big return in a short period of time because anything can and will happen in the market.

16. He warns young leaders to “stay in the moment”

One of the best pieces of advice that Bill McNabb has given to upcoming business leaders is to stay in the moment instead of worrying about the future. This helps in maintaining a focus on what needs to be done immediately, without distractions. Focus on the important things that are happening now and make sure that your values are crystal clear to the people you’re working with.

17. Bill has grandchildren who think he bought a zoo

Bill McNabb’s children are grown and they have children of their own. He has grandchildren and now that he’s retired, he is dedicating more time to serving on the board as the chair at the Philadelphia Zoo. He isn’t the owner of the zoo but the amount of time that he’s spent there makes his grandchildren think that he bought the zoo.

18. McNabb has an interest in wildlife

Serving on the board of the Philadelphia zoo is a pleasure for Bill McNabb, who has always liked animals. Since retiring, he’s gained a new appreciation for wildlife. He now takes an active interest in animal behavior as well as for wildlife conservation. He spends a lot of time at the zoo these days. Some of it is in an official advisory capacity and some for his own pleasure. His favorite resident at the zoo is a rhinoceros named “Tony” whom he has claimed as his spirit animal.

19. He’s involved in his local community

In addition to being the chair of the board for the Philadelphia zoo, Bill McNabb is also involved in other segments of teh local community. He is also a member of the United Way of Greater Philadephia and Southern New Jersey. United Way is an organization that assists community organizations with funding to help them better serve the people who live within the communities. The board that Bill sits on is in charge of reviewing these businesses, often making visits to their sites and listening to their pitches for funding, then determining how available funds would best be spent.

20. He bought a ton of UnitedHealth Group stock

After retiring from Vanguard, Bill McNabb became a director for the board of UnitedHealth. It was reported that he made an investment of $1.5 million for the purchase of 6,430 shares of UnitedHealth stock at an average price of $233.21 per share, bringing the total number of shares under his ownership to 7,879. While non-employee board directors are required to own stock in UnitedHealth, McNabb purchased double the required amount of stocks. The stock has experienced a 6.9% loss over the last year, but there is a strong dividend growth associated with UnitedHealth. It is worth noting that Vanguard owns a 7.5% stake in the company.


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