Morgan Stanley

Financial Advisor Merle Zislin, whose children have joined her in her practice, has been fearlessly breaking ground for women since entering the industry in the eighties. As this Morgan Stanley MAKER tells them, “If you work hard and love what you do, the rest will follow.”

Merle Zislin remembers her stay-at-home mom having to drive every week to her father’s business to pick up money for the household’s use. “I never wanted that kind of dependence,” says Merle. Nor does she want that for her clients.

The Financial Advisor and Founder of The Zislin Group at Morgan Stanley, Merle is a strong believer in financial independence for women, who she says are “motivated to succeed but don’t always have access to the same opportunities [as men]—or the confidence to seize them when they arise.” Merle herself had to learn to “believe in myself, manage my fears and not let anything intimidate me” as she made her way in wealth management, an industry she says is “great for women. We’re nurturing, we’re good listeners and it’s a career that leads to life-changing experiences.”

Merle Zislin
Merle Zislin

At Morgan Stanley for 40 years now, Merle has had her share of those life-changing experiences. She sees her clients, many spanning multiple generations, as her extended family. “They know how much we care about them, having worked with the great-great-grandparents all the way down to the great-great-grandchildren and everyone in between,” she explains.

A mom of three and a second-degree black belt in mixed martial arts. Merle is known to be fearless. She built her business while raising a family, then brought her children into the fold. Married 40 years to her high-school sweetheart, her husband Scott is also in finance (and is also a black belt). Their daughter Jennifer, a Financial Advisor and Financial Planning Specialist, was the first to join the practice, followed by her older brother, Michael, a Financial Advisor and Portfolio Manager who previously worked in the marine industry. Merle’s youngest child, Chris, is their team administrator. “They all studied finance and I believe saw the hard work and resulting success of that work—and seem to have a love of numbers, stocks and serving clients,” she beams. 


In 1981, Merle moved to Florida and worked for a precious metals company for two years, until it closed its doors. The next day, she interviewed at Dean Witter, a predecessor firm of Morgan Stanley, and started the day after that, as a wire operator and cashier in operations. Soon, she transitioned to become a client service assistant to the financial advisors. “Working with clients was my favorite part of the business,” she says.

She developed and implemented a superior service model that the clients had never experienced before. Eventually, clients began calling her for advice and “talking to me about their family and goals. I decided to take the leap and study for my exams and become a Financial Advisor  myself.”  

She accomplished that mission at a time when there were few women in the industry. “I was one of three Financial Advisor women in my complex, and we were told to wear pantsuits to fit in with the men,” remembers Merle, who found it very challenging for women early on in a male-dominated industry. “I was expected to be seen, not heard,” she adds. “I had to work hard, learn to use my voice and stand up for what I believed in.”

Since then, Merle has earned the designations of Insurance Planning Director, Alternative Investments Director, and Family Wealth Advisor. Merle has expanded her practice to serve 300 multi-generational families and businesses and manages $460 million in assets, making her a member of Morgan Stanley’s Master’s Club, a rank she’s held since 1992. She’s grateful to be in an industry where women and their accomplishments are now celebrated, “especially here at Morgan Stanley, where we’re valued unquestionably.”

This year, she was named a Morgan Stanley MAKER, joining a community of advocates, innovators, and groundbreakers for women’s advancement, all nominated by their peers. She’s humbled to be among the firm’s MAKERS Class of 2023, which marks the program’s 10th anniversary, and to receive its Lifetime Achievement Award.

“It’s an incredible honor to be recognized as a leader in our industry,” says Merle, who’s also earned spots on the Forbes list of America’s Best-in-State Wealth Advisors (2018-2023), the Forbes list of America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors Best-in-State (2017- 2023), the Forbes list of America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors (2020-2023) and Working Mother Magazine’s Top Wealth Advisor Moms (2017- 2021). In addition, The Zislin Group was named to the Forbes list of Best-In-State Wealth Management Teams (2023).

She developed and implemented a superior service model that the clients had never experienced before.


When not serving clients, Merle is supporting military veteran organizations, including Freedom Fighter Outdoors, a local charity that gives back to wounded military veterans through outdoor experiences, such as taking them deep-sea fishing or hunting. Another favorite organization she supports is the Honor Flight, a national nonprofit that gives veterans a day of honor in our nation’s capital, including visits to the war memorials. She got involved when a client, a Navy World War II veteran like her father, asked her to be his guardian. “It was an honor to spend an entire day with him in Washington, D.C., one of the most incredible, memorable experiences of my life,” she says.

Merle continues to make memories, at home and work. She loves working in a true family office alongside her children and seeing the strong values and work ethic she and Scott have instilled in them. “We complement each other’s strengths and skills and have a high level of trust and support for one another,” says Merle. “This gives clients comfort, knowing they’ll have a continuance of value and service.”

Recently becoming a new grandmother to baby Tatum, Merle is “so happy and excited to see her grow up.” Perhaps one day she’ll join the family office as well. “You never know,” says Merle, who has always told her children this: “If you work hard and love what you’re doing, the rest will follow.”