Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May 25, 2023

Learn from Prashanth Challa and Sue Maher, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management leaders, as they share their insights on working towards a more inclusive future.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding, supporting and championing the cultural richness of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is an ongoing commitment at Morgan Stanley.
  • To mark AAPI Heritage Month, the firm is offering a variety of programs and events under the theme of “Be You. Belong."
  • We’re proud to spotlight Wealth Management’s Prashanth Challa and Sue Maher for sharing their stories and championing an environment at Morgan Stanley where all employees feel a sense of belonging.

Understanding, supporting and championing the cultural richness of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is an ongoing commitment at Morgan Stanley. To mark AAPI Heritage Month, the firm is offering a variety of programs and events under the theme of “Be You. Belong.”


To help us gain perspective on what it means to be AAPI at Morgan Stanley, we caught up with two colleagues in Wealth Management: Prashanth Challa, a Managing Director who heads cybersecurity for the business, and Sue Maher, an Executive Director in charge of its Analytics & Data Strategy, Architecture and Platforms.

Prashanth Challa

As a child of Indian immigrants and a high school student on 9/11, Prashanth Challa remembers how isolating it was being a tall, imposing young man with brown skin in his hometown of Columbia, MD, especially when going through airports.


A bright teenager, he went on to Johns Hopkins University, where he double majored in computer engineering and theoretical math and earned a master’s in math. After doing graduate research at Georgia Tech and Emory University, he was determined to work in cybersecurity and landed at the National Security Agency (NSA). When Morgan Stanley decided in 2017 to expand its cybersecurity operations, the firm recruited Challa. Ever since, he’s been leading the Wealth Management cybersecurity team, which has grown to about 50 employees.


For Challa’s latest cyber tips and guidance, visit Morgan Stanley’s Security Center.


Over the years, Challa has made it his mission to fight stereotypes and help ensure a welcoming and accepting organization for all. “It’s incumbent on me to help others who want to take the same journey I did.”  

It’s incumbent on me to help others who want to take the same journey I did.
Managing Director - Head of Wealth Management Cybersecurity


As part of that commitment, he’s taken on an influential role with the firm's Asian Employee Network (AEN), where he is a sponsor and champion of others. He also spends time recruiting diverse talent and mentoring underprivileged youth. One way he does that is by volunteering for the Equity Collective, an initiative that brings together leaders from 27 asset management firms in order to advance diversity, equity and inclusion within the financial industry and helps disadvantaged students access opportunities there. Challa recently spoke with a group of college students to help them better understand the various roles across the industry, advising them on “how to navigate in a world where not everyone looks like them and how to break stereotypes and be your own person without getting locked into a lane.”


For Challa, AAPI Heritage Month is a chance to reflect positively on the cultural and societal changes he’s seen since he was a high school student in Maryland. For instance, he remembers a time in America when there were no Indians in television or in movies, but now “we’re seeing new faces in the media.” As Challa notes, “Changes don’t have to be scary. We should embrace Indians as our friends and neighbors who bring elements of their culture that only add to the American experience.” 

Sue Maher

Sue Maher, like Challa, joined Morgan Stanley in 2017 after more than 15 years at E*TRADE to develop and launch the customer relationship management initiative for Wealth Management. Today, she works in Analytics, Data & Innovation (AD&I) team, where she leads a diverse team of 14 people. She co-chairs the AD&I Women in Wealth (WIW) chapter, which hosts monthly discussions on topics such as navigating gender bias and the importance of self-advocacy.


Maher is also a member of the AEN and says she has “a personal responsibility” to pay it forward, adding “one of the most rewarding experiences of my career was helping to create and then co-chair the Investment Solutions division’s Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) committee." Its goal is to create a sustainably diverse and inclusive organization, develop anti-racism educational programming, including building awareness of unconscious bias, and establish a safe place for employees to share thoughts and come together.

If I can't be transparent and authentic, how can I truly lead?
Executive Director - Analytics and Data Strategy, Architecture and Platforms


Maher is a biracial Korean American who grew up with her sister in a single-parent home in a diverse area of central California. Their family traditions came from her mother’s Korean culture, including eating dduk guk (rice cake soup) on Korean New Year for good luck, celebrating Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) and wearing hanboks (traditional Korean dresses) to church on special occasions. Maher continues these traditions with her two young children, who she wants to be proud of their Korean heritage.  


Despite that deep sense of pride Maher points out that the cultural norms she was raised with don’t always align with expected behaviors in corporate America. A natural introvert “raised to never be boastful or even talk about my accomplishments,” she had to “break out of my shell to expand my network and find ways to self-advocate.”


That’s why the “Be you. Belong" theme of this year’s AAPI Heritage Month resonates with Maher. “It took me a long time to feel comfortable bringing my authentic self to work,” she says. “Now that I do, I try to help those around me understand the value of doing the same.”


She recognizes the need for more sponsorship of diverse talent and acknowledges, in her own search for AAPI role models, the “bamboo ceiling” encountered by Asian Americans.


Nevertheless, she sees signs of progress, such as the firm’s new Diverse Leaders Forum (DLF), which brings together Black, Latino and Asian-American colleagues to “build networks and share experiences.” Sue now has “a tribe” of colleagues from all different backgrounds whom she met through the DLF.  


Another sign of progress: Last year alone, AEN membership increased nearly 30 percent. Says Maher, “More people across the organization, whether of Asian descent or an ally, want to be engaged and involved.”


Learn more about our people, culture and career opportunities at Morgan Stanley.

Find a Financial Advisor, Branch and Private Wealth Advisor near you. 

Check the background of Our Firm and Investment Professionals on FINRA's Broker/Check.