Morgan Stanley
  • Women Financial Advisor Forum
  • Mar 26, 2019

Never Be Afraid to Learn

Claudia Mollerup-Madsen is many things: a Morgan Stanley MAKER, Financial Advisor, risk taker, and advocate for women’s financial independence. She shares the life lessons at the heart of her success.

Claudia Mollerup-Madsen is never afraid to learn. “When you're open to new experiences, you’re going to be surprised,” says the Houston-based Financial Advisor. “You're going to find out just how much you don’t know.”

Born in Peru, Claudia grew up traveling and moving around the world with her parents and three siblings. From Indonesia to Ecuador, her father’s oil business often took them to sites in remote parts of the world. “I was in helicopters at age 5 visiting my dad drilling somewhere,” she recalls.

Having to uproot and start over every few years in new lands gave Claudia life skills she still leans on. “My mother and father taught me to be adaptive to your situation. In fact, they expected it of us,” she adds, describing how they’d arrive in new country after new country and learn how to adjust. “I was always happy just playing with my brother and sisters. With my brother I’d come home with bruised knees and ankles. I learned to play lots of sports. Then, before we knew it, it was time to move again and leave our friends. The key was that we had complete trust in our parents and our family unity.”

Claudia says she’s learned a lot about herself in what she calls “the bounce.”

“You can’t get too caught up in the fear of failure,” she advises. “You just have to know that it’s part of the process. We learn from trial and error. I always know it won’t be right the first time, but I get excited about what I’m going to learn.”

In fact, being open to new things is exactly how Claudia thrives. “My family always encouraged us to jump off and see what happens,” she reflects. “They allowed me to experiment, to try new ventures.”

Like when her father encouraged her to spend time abroad and learn Portuguese after graduating in 1988 from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio with a degree in international business. She got a job as a translator in a shipyard in Brazil, where she studied and worked for one year. She then landed a job in international private banking, working in operations and as an administrative assistant and eventually got promoted to private banker in 1995. Attracted by the Firm’s integrity, she joined Morgan Stanley in 2009, shortly after the financial crisis.

After several years on the offshore platform, she decided to reinvent herself. “I used to only be dedicated to the non-U.S. resident space,” says Claudia. “But seeing the regulatory shifts, I didn’t want to be so highly specialized.” So, five years ago, she set out to “adapt my skills to fit the U.S. retirement space.” She earned her Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC) designation in 2014.

Today, she serves U.S. and non-U.S. clients from her thriving practice in Houston, where she lives with her husband of 28 years, a Danish maritime captain with whom she has two children. Son Marcus and daughter Tatiana both attend college in Texas. She describes her family as very athletic and “proud Texans” who still celebrate their Danish and Peruvian roots.

Recently, Claudia was named a Morgan Stanley MAKER, a class of trailblazing women of accomplishment nominated by their peers. “To say I was excited doesn’t even express the joy that I felt when I got the call,” she says. “I’m so honored to be recognized by my colleagues.”

Claudia is a member of the Houston Women’s Advisory Council (WAC), started in 2011 (by another MAKER Lisa Cregan) to bring together women Financial Advisors across Morgan Stanley’s two Houston complexes and to host women from other firms who do not have this type of support. “We work as a team and use all of our combined resources to extend our reach in the community through non-profit work and financial message,” explains Claudia.

She uses her voice as an advocate in teaching English and Spanish financial literacy courses through The Women’s Resource of Greater Houston, a nonprofit whose mission is to help women and girls make choices toward becoming independent, productive and financially stable. She also is a past board member. “Women need to be taught not only skills, but how and when to use them,” says Claudia.

An active Morgan Stanley spokesperson in the Spanish-speaking Houston community, Claudia regularly appears on radio and TV news programs. “I cover all sectors of the market and explain it in terms the audience will understand,” she says.

To this day, Claudia gains inspiration from her confident and resilient mother, a school teacher who once could not speak English then reinvented herself once the family moved permanently to the U.S. “I was 15, and my mom a homemaker following my father all over the world with his career, then decided to go back to school to become a beautician,” she says. “Within six months, she decided she wanted her own business and opened her salon and continues to be a serial entrepreneur.”

As Claudia advises others, never fear change. “Some things are completely out of your control. You might have to start again, change direction, take on a new role. Knowing when to start again is hard, but it is important to recognize it and be open to learning. You never know what exciting thing is waiting around the corner.”