Morgan Stanley

MAKER Kathleen Ferraro unites her teams by celebrating accomplishments, rallying around causes and practicing family values.

It was summertime, which meant clients were popping by the office with ripe tomatoes and other veggies from their gardens. On Aug. 3, National Watermelon Day, there was a slice for every employee in the kitchen. Come Halloween, the place bustles with 8- to 80-year-olds in costume. And the holidays will bring cookies galore, including one client’s famed homemade peanut-butter chocolate balls.

Sound more like home than a Morgan Stanley office? There’s someone to thank for that.

“I celebrate everything,” says Kathleen Ferraro, Senior Vice President and Branch Manager. “I find reasons to pull people together. I want them to really enjoy coming to work.”

Since stepping up eight years ago to manage the Norwell Branch in Massachusetts—moving from Assistant Complex Manager of the Coastal Connecticut Complex in Greenwich and becoming the first woman manager for many in Norwell—Kathleen has made it her mission to strengthen her branch’s culture. Today, they observe every professional accomplishment, plus every birthday and personal milestone you can think of.

A Family Branch

It’s this convivial atmosphere, combined with a “never forget we are here to service the people” commitment, that sets this office apart. “Our family culture is what I’m most proud of,” says Kathleen. “Walking in, you sense the collaboration, see the camaraderie, and feel our family orientation.”

But the branch was not always in unison. Years after Morgan Stanley merged with Smith Barney, the employees of the predecessor firms were still on separate floors. “I had my work cut out for me to bring the two firms together,” she explains. Moving to a new space where they could commingle helped, but it was Kathy’s attitude and inspiration that drove the branch to bond.

Though Kathy has excelled in management, it wasn’t the career she had planned for. After majoring in business and marketing at the University of Tampa, Kathy’s first job was at the New York banking division of the First National Bank of Chicago. Not wanting to leave New York when the company moved back to Chicago less than two years after she had started, Kathleen “took a leap of faith” and joined a small brokerage firm. She became a Financial Advisor and practiced for 17 years.

Managers saw something in her and kept tapping her on the shoulder to consider a management role. Reluctant to make that change, Kathleen agreed to an assessment. She passed and took a “sharp left turn” into management. Kathleen “gave my all” in numerous leadership positions before getting her first branch in 2014.

Leadership That Counts

When Kathy reflects on the 30+ years of her career, she is grateful for the opportunities, particularly the time she spent in the Greenwich marketplace, where her “leadership style was born.” When asked about her remarkable drive and work ethic, Kathy points to her upbringing. Growing up in New Hampshire, she learned from her dedicated mother and hard-working late father, who owned a plumbing and heating business. “My younger sister, brother and I definitely learned our values and work ethic by emulating him,” she says. “He went out of his way to help anyone and everyone. It didn’t matter what time it was; if someone needed help, my father was there. In New England, where it gets cold quickly when your boiler goes down, people in the community knew they could count on him!”

Kathleen emulated her parents’ values in raising her own family. She and her husband Anthony met in college and have two sons and a daughter, all adults. Kathleen enjoys rallying around causes with them, especially St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the American Cancer Society, and helping the less fortunate in her community. “It is important for me show them that we all need to lift and encourage those around us and give back to our communities,” says Kathleen.

We Make Each Other Better

No matter what the cause, if it means something to someone in her office, Kathleen and her branch will support it. From coffee drives to support a local shelter to their “Sock-Tober” sock drive for veterans, if it “hits a nerve for one of us in the branch, we’re going to wrap our arms around it and do whatever we can.”

During her first year at the Norwell office, Kathy rode alongside one of her advisors in a 50-mile bicycle ride to end Alzheimer’s. Afterward, he said: “Colleagues have supported me with money before, but no one, and no branch manager, has ever rode alongside me.”

As Kathy points out, “That’s what families do, right? We help one another. We make each other better.”

Described by her co-workers as mentor, coach, role model and motivator, Kathleen also volunteers with two Boston-based organizations, Invest in Girls and Power to Fly, both of which empower women at different ages when it comes to education, careers and finance. Passing knowledge and experiences along to women while lifting them up is a high priority for Kathleen and one aspect of being named a MAKER at Morgan Stanley—joining a group of trailblazing women of accomplishment nominated by their peers—that brings her the most excitement. “Elated” is the word she used to describe the honor.

“The personal notes and calls from prior years’ MAKERS have made me so happy,” she grins. “Now I can’t wait for the next MAKERS class to be announced, so I can send them notes and watch others go through this amazing ride. It’s so exciting to be a part of it.”