A Complex Manager, JT was named a 2021 Morgan Stanley MAKER for all he does to champion diversity and bring out the best in people, including 233 Financial Advisors on his team.
At first, John Terry didn’t see a connection between his college degree and wealth management when his good friend, a Financial Advisor, suggested a career change some 25 years ago. But today, the journalism graduate is a Complex Manager at Morgan Stanley, overseeing 300 employees, including 233 Financial Advisors with a combined $38 billion in assets under management. “I’m a long way from my original field, but I can look at every job I’ve had as a building block for where I am today,” says John, who colleagues call J.T. “I look back and see so much serendipity along the way.”
What appealed most to J.T. was that it’s a relationship business. “Once I understood you can be really successful if you’re good with relationships, I made the leap to Morgan Stanley,” he says of leaving his job as head of marketing for a university. “Whether you're a leader, a Financial Advisor or a support professional, the ability to develop and nurture relationships is paramount. For me, it happens to be the most enjoyable thing.”
The first one in his family to graduate college, J.T. grew up with a passion for writing. At the University of Oklahoma, he worked at the student newspaper. “Being able to communicate and write well is a gift I use every day,” he acknowledges.
In fact, at Morgan Stanley he launched a weekly internal newsletter for his complex. Called The Tuesday Times, his digital communications keep everyone across the 19 offices in Alabama, Arkansas and the Florida panhandle “tied together on a regular basis,” says J.T., who misses the days when he printed and distributed the newsletter in person.
Traveling across three states to the different branches is J.T.’s favorite thing to do as a manager. He missed that human connection during the pandemic but has maintained strong bonds with staff. “Our focus is on culture,” J.T. explains. “We have a team that takes care of each other.”
Looking back on his Oklahoma upbringing, J.T. says his hard-working parents, who owned their own business in the oil fields, taught him the importance of customer service. “If a rig went down, my dad was up at 2 a.m. to go get the part and head out there,” he remembers. “He didn’t want a competitor to get that call.”
He credits his mentors for his leadership successes, particularly his ability to bring out the best in people and offer constructive criticism. “As leaders, we have an obligation to give honest feedback, even if the conversation is difficult,” says J.T. “Your colleagues should know the only reason you’re giving the feedback is to help them get better and become aware of their blind spots.”
Leadership also takes empathy, he points out. “Empathy is understanding,” he says, “by walking a mile in that person’s shoes. I’ve gotten to know diverse groups of people and sets of circumstances that are different from my own, which makes me a more well-rounded leader.”
Diversity has been a key focus for J.T., with women comprising two-thirds of his leadership team. “They come to work every day with great ownership and extraordinary passion” in executing “not my vision, but our vision,” he beams.
Looking back on the past 25 years, J.T. says he does not remember a time when he was “more proud of my career, my company and my complex,” he adds. “The wide variety of backgrounds and skillsets on our team is what gives our complex an advantage.”
Today, J.T.’s complex is consistently ranked among the top in the country. He says the best compliment he gets, “is not ‘J.T., you are the best complex manager we’ve ever had,’ but rather, ‘You have put together the best team we’ve ever had.’”
On being nominated by his peers to join such a distinguished group of women and men, J.T. says: “Being named a Morgan Stanley MAKER is incredibly humbling and a real tribute to the powerhouse women on my team who make me better at what I do every day. MAKERS are paving the way and showing us all the innovative and impressive work of women in our industry.”