Morgan Stanley’s Head of Program Management & Risk for Wealth Management Corporate & Institutional Solutions kept an open mind to opportunities. She encourages others to do so too.
Michele Mattison was taught from an early age to always try new things. Her parents “really wanted us to learn and understand what was happening in the world,” says Morgan Stanley’s Head of Program Management and Risk for Wealth Management Corporate and Institutional Solutions (CIS). The couple raised three children in New York City and later its suburbs, “always exposing us to any and all opportunities. That really stayed with me growing up.”
From bouncing from soccer, softball, dance and piano when she was younger to pivoting her career from engineering to finance, Michele says her secret to success has been to “lean in to change.”
“While change can be scary and you may not be happy with it in the moment, experience has taught me that you can use it to create opportunities,” she says. “There is something to learn in every position—and knowledge you can take with you to the next role, whatever it is.”
The finance industry had never been on Michele’s radar during her undergraduate and graduate engineering studies at the University of Buffalo. But she had her first brush with finance during her junior year, when she served as treasurer of her sorority. Little did Michele know that the skills she learned in that role would help so much down the road. “It was interesting to me how much everything tied back to finance, but I never made the direct connection to finance as a long-term career,” she reflects.
Her passion for math and science, which her dad pointed out would make her a great asset in the field of engineering, led her down that path. Inspired as well by her mom, who worked her way up from a teacher to principal, Michele knew that whatever she pursued, she would have to work hard and set goals. She landed a job at a manufacturing company in the Buffalo area doing quality control engineering while continuing her graduate studies. She was content in her role until she learned of an open position at large financial services firm. She found herself drawn to the idea of working close to her family and immersing in a whole new industry—so she went for it.
Her first role at Salomon Smith Barney allowed her to leverage her project management skills in moving some operations from one location to another. After two years, Michele joined Morgan Stanley and has never looked back. Reflecting on her more than 20 years at the Firm, her multiple roles have spanned reference data, prime brokerage, operations, sales and trading, and ultimately wealth management. “Every role at this Firm is crucial,” she says. “We all have an opportunity to make an impact.”
After the birth of her daughter, Michele took a maternity leave. Learning that her newborn had hip dysplasia, Michele focused on getting her baby through numerous surgeries at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York City, then weeks and months in body casts. She recovered well with lots of physical therapy but had to undergo another surgery when she was 12. “I was utterly blown away again by the amount of support I received,” says Michele of those stressful times. “I’m so grateful for the help I had around me, very much from family but also very much from work. That’s what I really want to give back to others.”
As one of the founding members of the CIS chapter of Morgan Stanley’s Women in Wealth in 2020, Michele now offers others support through bi-monthly, virtual coffee pairings that help build a sense of community in today’s near fully remote working environment. While the Firm has many programs for women, Michele explains how she wanted to “create a sense of belonging, where women could continue to build their networks across the organization. A small group of us got together and created a very flexible networking opportunity.”
Michele quickly succeeded in her goal. “We had 140 matches across 13 countries and all different lines of businesses,” she beams. “The beauty of the program is that you can participate every month if you want, or every other—whatever fits your schedule. We are a global business, and we have the opportunity to take a large firm and make it smaller.”
When asked about becoming a Morgan Stanley MAKER, joining a group of trailblazing women of accomplishment nominated by their peers, Michele is quick to point out how she “didn’t get to become a MAKER by myself.” She notes that MAKERS are individuals who make a difference every day though small changes that collectively move women forward. “Just being a part of that gets me so excited about the future and the role I hope to play in advancing equality for women.”
Michele remembers being in a male-dominated program at school, then in her first job how difficult the culture could be for women and how happy she was to find support from other women in her sorority. Today, she’s creating that network for colleagues, always encouraging them to be themselves. “The most important thing is to remain authentic and be open to any opportunity that comes along,” she shares. “Evaluate each one of them with an open mind.”