• Diversity

Helping Veterans Navigate the Corporate World

Veterans at Morgan Stanley help each other find their bearings in corporate life.

It's one thing to leave a laid-back creative job and “go corporate." It's another to trade your military uniform for a career at a major financial services firm. Not only are the rules and expectations often different, but the recipe for success can feel inverted: While the military emphasizes discipline and order, corporations are dynamic and challenge the status-quo.

Unless you've undergone the transition, it's not an easy one to relate to. That's why it's incredibly important that Veterans entering the workforce for the first time have a support network to count on.

The Veterans Employee Network Group (VENG) at Morgan Stanley has its foundation in the extraordinary bond that exists between veterans. “It doesn't matter if I only met you for the first time…the connection is one of those things that comes from our shared experience," says Brian Hall, a Commodities Product Controller in the Finance Division at Morgan Stanley.

The VENG seeks to bring some of the military's inherent camaraderie into the workplace. “One of the main missions of the network is to offer help and support to all veterans interested in the finance industry, as well as new recruits and existing employees," says Joe Purcell, Managing Director, Investment Banking, and VENG co-chair. “We want all veterans to know there's a strong culture here and that we try to create that same sense of family that's felt in the military."

We know what it feels like to go from a world of black and white and heirarchy into a corporate culture.

Corporate versus Military Life

Many veterans  come with certain skills from their military experience—team work, precision and self-discipline among them. “But we also know from personal experience what it feels like to go from a world of black and white and hierarchy into a corporate culture," says Purcell.

Before  his 23 years in finance, Joe served as a Supply Corps officer in the U.S. Navy. The difference? “In the corporate world, no one is going to come up and give you orders; no one is going to tell you when you can go to lunch or when you can leave for the day. Instead, you're going to be encouraged to be more independent, speak up and take initiative."

One of the biggest shocks for veterans entering Morgan Stanley? The flat management structure and the emphasis on taking initiative. “New recruits out of the military sometimes need to be empowered, to know that it's OK to try something new, even if it doesn't work," says Jeff McMillan, Managing Director, Wealth Management, and VENG co-chair. Jeff, who serves as Chief Analytics Officer for Morgan Stanley’s Wealth Management division, spent three years as a platoon leader in the U.S. Army.

“Here, we want people to try their ideas, take the initiative and be creative, because creativity and innovation is the way to differentiate ourselves in a highly competitive industry."

A Resource for One Another

When a new veteran starts at Morgan Stanley, the VENG connects them with another veteran at the firm, to provide support in the first three months of the job.

“There are certain things I’d tell fellow vets they need to do when they first get here," says Hall. “Really commit yourself to learning all you can about what your team’s mission is, what clients they support, and work out how each team member’s job interacts with yours and others.”

The VENG hosts events throughout the year where Veterans at Morgan Stanley can connect with each other.

“We recently just had an event to congratulate all of the vets who were promoted,” says Laura King, Vice President in Risk Management. “These events are great because you get to meet other people in different parts of the firm, so you learn about the opportunities that are out there, and meet people willing to give you professional advice.” Laura followed her brother into the Marines after high school. She studied Arabic and served as a translator intercepting telecom messages for Marines in the field. After five years of service she went on to complete an economics degree and was hired by Morgan Stanley in 2011.

Arguably the most important role of the VENG is creating the opportunity to forge friendships and rekindle that feeling of family. “There are various email groups, which let you know about more casual, social get-togethers,” says King. “They help people know about things like casual Happy Hours, group runs and things like that. I actually found some people working here were some of the same people I knew in the Marines. Small world.”

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