MAKER Cheryl Palmerini is Making an Impact, One by One
Cheryl Palmerini has her sister to thank for her career. Starting out as a communications assistant at McKinsey & Co., Cheryl transitioned after two years to a human resources role at Time Warner Cable. She had been working there for four years when she got an offer from Morgan Stanley. Unsure about making the move, she turned to her trusted sister. “We went for a walk, and she convinced me to take the opportunity,” she says. “It was the best decision I ever made.”
Cheryl accepted that junior HR position supporting the Firm’s various product areas, then worked her way up through the organization over 13 years. “Looking back, one of my proudest moments was building out the private bank,” says Cheryl. “It was an amazing experience being part of a startup within the Morgan Stanley brand. I’m proud of how incredible that business has done.” In fact, many of her recruits are still there.
Recently, as a Managing Director, Cheryl was both Wealth Management Chief of Staff and Head of Diversity & Inclusion. She ensured the Wealth Management division is building a culture in which “inclusion is paramount and diverse employees feel they belong, can develop and thrive.” With more than 25,000 wealth management employees, “it’s a massive business, so where you really make an impact from a diversity perspective is individually, one by one,” she says. “I love being able to help so many people across the organization develop and navigate their careers.” As Chief of Staff, she keeps diversity at the forefront of the business strategy, making sure “it’s woven into everything we do and not a standalone topic on the agenda.” Cheryl was recently named the Chief of Staff and Head of Human Resources for the Morgan Stanley Private Bank National Association and Morgan Stanley Bank, N.A.
Cheryl grew up in South Salem, N.Y., with a sister and brother who are twins, her real-estate agent mother and her law-firm CFO father. It was the house “where all the neighborhood kids came to play,” she says fondly of her childhood. Now a “ping pong champion” among her Morgan Stanley peers, she grew up playing lots of table tennis and enjoyed summer vacations on Cape Cod.
Very close to her sister, they both now work at Morgan Stanley—and both ended up marrying into the same family, as their husbands are brothers. “Family values will always be number one,” she says. “I think we looked for and found similar family values in another family.” It’s not surprising that among Cheryl’s favorite things to do are spending time with her three-year-old nephew Stefano and son Luca and traveling with her husband to Italy to visit his family.
In addition to family values, hard work and diligence were also instilled in them at a young age. At 14, Cheryl was babysitting and working at a local book shop. “We were very much taught that you have to work hard to support yourself,” she says. “We all had to work—it was expected.” She knew she needed to have a job immediately upon graduating from Wheaton College. During her junior year, Cheryl was actively job searching and later sacrificed a term abroad to complete an internship she knew would be better for her career. “I was always very focused on my career and how I was going to support myself,” she recalls.
With her degree in English, she landed in McKinsey’s communications department, but is grateful she found her way into HR. “I ended up just loving it,” she says, especially when it comes to nurturing women in their roles. From the Firm’s remote field offices to large corporate centers, her hope is that all women at Morgan Stanley feel connected and are fully taking advantage of all the Firm has to offer them. “This is truly a place where women can build a fulfilling career,” she beams.
At times, Cheryl is one of only a few women at meetings, though it’s not something she’s phased by. Instead she thinks, “Okay, what can I contribute, and how can I move the dial forward?” Her hope is to empower all women with confidence so that they believe in themselves and know they deserve a seat at that table. Her advice to them is to “own your seat. Why not flip the narrative on its head and say, ‘I really do belong here, because I have a perspective that’s different than anyone else’s.’”
Cheryl is known to spot women in the Firm who might be on the quiet side yet have an untapped spark, then seek them out to help unleash it. She often advises women to “be your own strongest advocate,” she says. “Take responsibility for your career. That includes being ethical and treating every day on the job as if it were an interview.”
Her nurturing ways contributed to her recently being named a Morgan Stanley MAKER, joining a group of trailblazing women of accomplishment nominated by their peers. She sees this as a huge honor and feels a heightened “level of responsibility.” With that, she asks herself, “How can I better help the next generation?”