The Asian Leaders Forum brought together senior leaders from Wealth Management for candid conversations with senior leadership about their experience and perspective.
Morgan Stanley hosted an Asian Leaders Forum, an initiative developed to provide wealth management managers with an opportunity to have an open exchange with senior leadership about their experience and perspective, enhance their leadership skills and build a sense of community to help participants thrive at the Firm.
Kara Underwood, Head of Wealth Management Diversity, Inclusion and Talent hosted the session and was joined by Firm leadership at the single day event. Home office and field managing directors, executive directors and peer leaders discussed what the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Community means to growth and innovation at Morgan Stanley.
"The AAPI population is critically important to the future of our business and the fabric of the Firm," she said. "Our goal at this event is to explore the headwinds confronting advancement and inclusion, and to recognize opportunities for improvement and focus. Senior leadership’s attention and level of engagement with diverse talent has never been stronger, and today is proof of that.”
Co-President Andy Saperstein addressed the state of the markets, how Morgan Stanley is well-positioned to serve any clients, and the actions the Firm is taking to improve its diversity. “It’s the everyday things we do that make a difference, and we continue to make positive movements to further diversity,” he said. “Results don’t come instantly; they take time. If we work hard today, we will achieve the results we want tomorrow.”
A presentation on Asian American economic mobility, Asians and Asian Americans in the Workplace, new research from global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, highlighted three common themes that affect the Asian American experience. It explained monolith aggregation, where Asian American people are grouped into one colossal monolith; the myth of the model minority, where the diverse experiences of Asian Americans are characterized into a singular, misleading narrative and thereby pits groups against each other; and the perpetual foreigner label where Asian Americans, whether immigrants or native-born, are often made to feel like foreigners in their home country.
After the presentation, attendees broke into groups to develop suggestions for addressing issues that had been raised during open discussions.
During one powerful segment, Managing Director Wealth Management Analytics, Data and Innovation Jeff McMillan led an interactive discussion with attendees who shared their workplace experiences and suggested what the Firm could do to become a destination of choice for Asian leaders. The straight talk discussion explored comments ranging from what it's like to work at Morgan Stanley, attaining the necessary balance between talking and listening, and how the Firm can strengthen its efforts to place more Asian talent into senior leadership ranks.
"We seek unity, not uniformity," Jeff said. "And we attain unity through variety. With hard work, we will achieve the results the Firm is dedicated to."
Head of Wealth Management Human Resources Larry Frers told attendees he was excited about the Asian Leadership Forum as it joins the other recent leadership efforts: the Black Leadership Forum in 2019 and the Latinx Leadership Forum in 2020. "This is just the start; it must continue," he said. "As a Firm, our most important asset is our people, our culture."
The guest speaker in the afternoon was Kenji Yoshino, Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law and the Director of the Center for Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at the NYU School of Law. He fielded questions from the attendees that explored the issues of power, privilege, inclusion, diversity, and allyship as he challenged everyone to empower themselves by being authentic, and by sharing your personal story.
"What does it mean, how much is it worth to you to be part of an organization that allows you to bring your authentic self to work?" he asked, following with a discussion of workplace “covering,” where individuals downplay parts of their identity in an effort to fit in. The need to cover is not limited to any specific group, he said, rather it is something many people experience that causes the abandonment of personal identity. He explained how it is a type of coerced conformity that can pressure racial minorities to change their names, languages, or cultural practices, coax women to “play like men” at work, instruct the devout to minimize expressions of faith, and urge individuals with disabilities to conceal the equipment that permits them to function. Kenji concluded by urging everyone to be an active ally when it comes to microaggressions, whether in your group or another. "Sometimes we are a better advocate for others than we are for ourselves," he said before.
At the event’s close, Managing Director and Executive Sponsor Valerie Wong Fountain said she was excited about the establishment of the Asian Leaders Forum and that her personal goals were to use it to “connect, empower, and advance together.”
“This is just the beginning of a new opportunity to come together to forge new relationships and invest in ourselves,” she said. “Relationships are the currency of business. People don’t trust who they don’t know and they don't do business with people they don’t trust.”
Managing Director, Wealth Management’s Head of Talent & Diversity, Stacie Hoffmeister informed the attendees that in the future the three leadership forums will unite as a hub to bring the diverse leaders together with senior leadership as well as provide opportunities for mentorships and sponsorships in order to establish and cultivate a relationship.”