Morgan Stanley

MAKER Kate Waters Finds Ways to Lift Others, Especially Women

Kate Waters figured out early in her career that people make or break a job. Only a few short years into her first job out of college at a boutique investment bank, she realized “I loved the people I had been working with more than the actual job.” Looking to make a change at 23, she interviewed at nearly every major bank. When it came down to two offers, she chose Smith Barney, a predecessor firm of Morgan Stanley, a decision she’s thrilled with, even 18 years later. “I felt a connection right away with the hiring manager,” she says. “I wanted to work with him.”

She entered the Financial Advisor training program and built her book of business by cold calling, cold drop-ins and networking. Young and seeking another credential, she earned her CFP® certification, expanded into financial planning and ultimately partnered with two other Financial Advisors to help clients with their multigenerational needs. As an athlete, she knew “I’d be more effective on a team. It was logical to bring together partners with different skill sets and be more representative of the families we serve.”

Today, she and her partner of the BTW Group at Morgan Stanley serve the needs of clients ranging from entrepreneurs and corporate executives to families and nonprofits. “We like to help empower people that are doing really good things in the world,” she beams. “I love the relationship side of the business, being around good people and having a meaningful impact on their lives; it’s why I chose this profession.”

Besides her love of people, Kate enjoys being a student of the markets and applying financial and practical knowledge as a solution to her client’s goals. She also loves empowering women. Kate currently serves as a Co-Chair of Morgan Stanley’s Financial Advisor Advisory Council (FAAC), a group of 18 Financial Advisors from across the country that liaise with Morgan Stanley’s Senior Management team on Firm initiatives, platforms and business issues. The FAAC works to create innovative approaches and growth opportunities for the roughly 16,000 Financial Advisors they represent and create the best platform for their clients. 

Kate also is one of the founders of LIFT, a council of women from Morgan Stanley’s Northeast region that regularly meets to help develop women in the business and attract new women to the industry. “Our mission is to help lift all women,” she says. LIFT has aligned with charities such as Bottomless Closet to help women seeking work and continues to create content and events to bring women together.

But perhaps what she’s most proud of is formalizing college mentoring/internship programs. She started with Villanova, her alma mater, and brought 30 women to New York to meet with a panel of women colleagues, all involved with LIFT, to talk about their different roles and career paths. Applicants were asked to write a paragraph on why they would like to participate. Kate was surprised when a majority of the applicants wrote that they wanted to hear what it’s like being a woman in a “male-dominated” industry. She was disheartened to learn that this is still a topic on the minds of college students today and has sought to disrupt that way of thinking “They didn’t realize how awesome the business is for women, and that you can have a family, give back to your community and be creative in building your own business.” Several years later, her colleagues from LIFT have expanded the programs to other schools including Barnard, Notre Dame and Columbia.

As a board member of the Villanova Financial Club, Kate actively helps with an internship program that places more than 100 students a summer and has a goal of creating 200 mentorship connections this year. The only woman member of this board, her eye is toward creating impact for students and the university, and collaborating with other board members to expand their mission further. She also is bringing more women to the Club and has the support of her fellow board members, who she views as “male champions.” Kate currently mentors several college women and is also on the Advisory Council for Villanova’s McNulty Institute for Women’s Leadership, where she further continues her goal of developing and empowering college women. “We know they’re talented and qualified,” she says. “Let’s give them a shot. Sometimes they just need a little nudge and a reminder that this is a great business to be in.”

It’s no wonder Villanova holds such a special place in her heart. Kate is the oldest of three siblings, all of whom attended Villanova. Her husband, the youngest of three, all went there too. Not only did their families but many of their best friends attended, and they’re still actively engaged, especially in support of Villanova hoops and lacrosse! The couple and their three children, 10-year-old twin boys and an 8-year-old daughter, split their time between Manhattan and Stratton, VT, where they love to ski, explore and spend time with family and friends.

Kate grew up in a large Irish Catholic family in Pearl River, N.Y., a small town north of Manhattan that boasts a large Irish community and the second-largest St. Patrick’s Day parade behind New York City. She was an avid athlete, playing soccer, softball, track and swimming. “I had really tough but incredibly supportive coaches who really pushed me to reach my full potential,” says Kate, who is now a coach herself, leading her daughter’s softball team.

She’s keenly aware of her competitive instincts and ability to aggressively push ahead. “Even when I’m skiing or running, I’m plotting my course, figuring out who I can pass and finding ways to push my limits,” she says. “I’m a solution-based thinker with survival instincts. Failure is never an option.”

She’s also an avid reader, both fiction and nonfiction, and loves to be constantly learning. Three of her grandparents went to college, two have their master’s degrees, and her mom has multiple master’s degrees as well. “I grew up with education as a strong part of my life, and my parents constantly encouraged me to try and better myself.” Whether it was in music (she studied piano and played the flute in the marching band), on the sports field, or as the class treasurer in high school, Kate’s family always pushed her to get outside of her “comfort zone”, something she continues to do today.

For her commitment to paying it forward to help others, Kate was recently named a Morgan Stanley MAKERtrailblazing women of accomplishment nominated by their peers. This recognition follows her being named “2016 Woman of Concern” by Concern Worldwide (US), a 50-year-old global humanitarian organization operating in 24 countries and on whose board she served. Kate is humbled—and “grateful to be able to give back in any capacity I can. Having an impact on other people’s lives is something important that has helped me grow personally, and I hope that it helps others to grow too.”

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