Morgan Stanley
  • Diversity
  • Aug 19, 2021

Making Racial Equity a Reality

Inaugural members of our Experienced Professionals Program, created last year to recruit and train diverse, high-achieving professionals for jobs at the firm, share what sets this program apart.

As a newly minted high school graduate, Jonathan, a native of Southern California, knew for certain what he would do with his life: Become a community organizer and help bring about social change from the ground up. “I didn’t want to follow a traditional track,” he says.” I wanted to follow my heart.”

That meant involving himself deeply in California politics, but eventually, he decided it was time to earn his college degree, so he enrolled at Glendale College in 2014, where he excelled before transferring to the University of California, Berkeley, two years later.

There, Jonathan found a mentor in Linda Kreitzman, who runs the Master of Financial Engineering Program at the Haas School of Business. With her encouragement, he focused on statistics and finance, which ultimately landed him an internship and return offer at a big bank. Kreitzman also introduced Jonathan to Nathan Coelen, a Managing Director in Morgan Stanley’s Fixed Income Division, who told Stuart about the Morgan Stanley Experienced Professionals Program.

A Promising Start

Launched last fall, the program is designed with people like Jonathan in mind: High-achieving, diverse professionals, with or without some experience working in the financial industry under their belt, who have two or more years of post-graduate or work experience and are ready to take it to the next level at a world-class financial institution. The goal? To expand the talent pool of diverse professionals in finance and help pave the way for their success.

The announcement of the program drew over 800 applicants, from which 20, including Jonathan, were chosen for the first cohort. Their backgrounds range from government and consulting to law and publishing, and their ranks include a former magazine editor, the founder of a successful nonprofit aimed at providing underserved youth with job-readiness programming, and a PhD in computer science from Princeton.

All recently completed eight-week rotations through the Fixed Income and Bank Resource Management Divisions within the Institutional Securities Group, including time spent learning everything from commodities and  high-yield credit to public finance. After finishing their stints, they will join a team in either the Fixed Income Division or Bank Resource Management full-time.

Even before the first cohort has finished the program, other firm divisions are already adopting the same approach to attract diverse professionals, meaning future participants will gain entrée to even more areas of Morgan Stanley. The Equity Research, Institutional Equities, Investment Banking, Global Capital Markets and Firm Risk Management divisions have all launched their own programs to identify, recruit and train diverse talent. Says Matt Berke, a Managing Director and Global Chief Operating Officer of the Institutional Securities Group “Expanding the program across the institutional business, from Sales & Trading to Investment Banking, makes sense.  The main tenets of the program—identifying talent with valuable, transferrable skills from a variety of industries, coupled with a robust training curriculum—can be leveraged across our business.”

A Network of Support

This year’s first cohort describes the experience as intense but exciting. “Some people might use the ‘drinking from a firehose’ analogy,” says Martin, a former financial analyst and asset-based lending relationship manager from Chicago. “I think of myself more as a runner who is facing a new kind of race. Success just depends on a different type of conditioning, and that’s what we’re getting in the program. We’re getting in shape.”

Even more than the intensity of the job training, what has struck Martin and the others is the quality of guidance they’ve gotten through it all. Says Anne, a former credit analyst from St. Louis: “The support network is embedded in the fabric of the program. The number of people who have been willing to meet with us and have conversations with us has been exceptional.”  Each cohort member is assigned a peer “buddy” and a sponsor, along with a promise that “no question is too basic,” according to Elizabeth, a former New York corporate lawyer.

Another aspect that the participants value is the cohort itself. “Going through the program with folks who look like you and share similar experiences has been invaluable,” says Martin.  Adds Tobi, the former nonprofit founder, “As an African-American, usually you step into a job at a new firm and then you find a network of people. With this program, you start at the firm with your network already in place.” 

Defining Success, Both Individual and at the Firm Level

Along with the warm welcome that he and the others feel, comes an explicit acknowledgment that “we belong here, that we have a right to be here,” says Tobi. Adds Judith, who previously worked in higher education administration, “These days, a lot of companies are talking the talk on diversity. It’s usually not something that results in the level of direct action that I’ve seen at Morgan Stanley. This program is not: ‘Let’s just bring a bunch of Black people in.’ This program is: 'Let’s bring in Black and other diverse professionals who have exceled in their fields and prepare them for long-term success.'”

For now, none of this inaugural class of the program knows where that success might lead them. But they can’t help but feel a part of something transformative. Says Elizabeth, “I’m definitely thinking of things I wasn’t thinking about before, in terms of where I could be in my career in three years, five years, ten years.” Martin, too, has a new perspective: “New York and Morgan Stanley were not on my radar a year ago. Where I come from, people can only dream of doing what I’m doing.”

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