At the dawn of Clare Woodman's career, there were far fewer women pursuing careers in investment banking.
“Investment banking wasn't even presented as a career option to me when I was at University in the U.K.," she says. Fast forward to 2017 and Woodman holds a C-level title—COO of Morgan Stanley's Institutional Securities group, in addition to sitting on the Firm’s Operating and Management Committees, Global Franchise Committee, and acting as a Sponsor of the Firm’s Womens’ Business Alliance, which leads initiatives to recruit, train and develop diverse talent. She is active in industry bodies as well, serving on the board of Euroclear and the Banking Standards Board. She's using her senior platform to give back, both to women in finance looking to advance their careers and to the community at large.
Lawyer to Businesswoman
Woodman came to finance via a career in law. In 2002, she took a position as a banking and derivatives lawyer at Morgan Stanley, looking for a more balanced lifestyle following the birth of her first child. “The honest truth is I left the legal world and came to a bank because I wanted better work-life balance," she says. “I always had career aspirations, but family is incredibly important to me, too."
While at Morgan Stanley, she attended London Business School part-time, earning her MBA to further build her quantitative skills and develop a broader understanding of risk. She eventually moved into an advisory role focusing on Business Unit risk management. “The world of risk in financial services has broadened, and a key aspect of my job is focusing on how to translate what policymakers and regulators want to achieve," she says. "What I learned has been very helpful as Morgan Stanley adapts to a changed - and improved - environment of prudential regulation."
To help women at Morgan Stanley realize their own career aspirations, Woodman helped spearhead a program in London that works to make sure that women are equipped to take their careers to the next level. “We want to give our high-performing females the support they need so they can advance to the next level," she says. “We'll provide training and development to ensure they have the skills that are necessary to operate at a more senior level." Woodman, who is married, has three boys and is no stranger to juggling family and career. Her advice on how to do so—“don't strive for perfection"—isn't a perspective you typically hear. “Often, doing something well is good enough," she says. “If you are a perfectionist, you might find it hard to succeed at home and in the workplace. The best thing you can do is to ensure that you can honor the commitments you make in the workplace and at home." And do so with the proper dose of preparation. "Throughout my career, I've always done my homework and tried to anticipate what might be next," she says, "I've learned that the more planning you do, the more successful your execution is."
Giving back is an important commitment to Woodman, who is a Board member of the Morgan Stanley International Foundation, a charitable trust. She was instrumental in helping relocate a garden from the Chelsea Flower Show to the rooftop of London's Great Ormond Street Hospital. The project got so much attention that the BBC filmed a documentary about it. "If we had known how challenging it was to do, we might have backed off!" quips Woodman. "But we're glad we did it. The hospital was delighted, and we've received so many great emails and letters. It was very innovative, and we're very proud of how it turned out." Woodman says the Chelsea Flower Show project, and others like it— the Strategy Challenge, for example, where Morgan Stanley employees consult for nonprofits at no charge —are emblematic of the Firm's do-good-together culture. "Culture permeates everything we do, from strategy to how we run the business day to day. I believe that sense of collaboration is stronger here than anywhere else."