Morgan Stanley

Having overcome her own obstacles over 25 years in the industry, Morgan Stanley’s Patricia Pagoaga, a branch manager, now mentors, creates opportunities for women and gives back to military veterans.

Fresh out of college and on her first day of work, Patricia Pagoaga remembers not knowing the difference between a stock, bond or mutual fund. But she “quickly caught the bug. I never thought I’d be working on Wall Street,” says Trish, who once aspired to be an attorney. "But it didn’t take long for me to realize, ‘this is for me.’ I loved the fast-paced, entrepreneurial environment and how you can make anything you want out of it.”

And that she did. Now a Managing Director and Branch Manager of Morgan Stanley’s Garden City office, Trish leads a team of 45 Financial Advisors and 19 support professionals and closely guards their culture. Over her 25 years in the industry, she’s worked her way up from that first client associate position through numerous management roles.

But it wasn’t without obstacles. “Not that long ago, women were actively discouraged from stepping into management,” she says, reflecting on her situation many years ago at another firm. Despite her readiness, others weren’t.

So she left. “Sometimes when life throws up an obstacle, you just have to find a way to get around it,” she says.

After a few years, her old firm took notice of her successes and invited her back to take part in their new management training program. “I wanted to go back and prove to them that women can be powerful leaders!”

So she did, and she built many wonderful relationships along the way. Several years later, when former colleagues asked her to join them at Morgan Stanley, she didn’t hesitate.

Her management skills were quickly put to the test through the financial crisis, and again during the joint venture with Smith Barney. “What an incredible experience, everybody pulling together to rethink how we serviced our clients and how we could do it better going forward,” she remembers.

A Champion for Others
That experience led to a job at the division level, and eventually the national level. “That’s where I was really able to make an impact on the firm,” she says, reflecting on the years she spent helping Financial Advisors, associates and support staff identify their strengths, develop their skillsets and seize opportunities throughout the firm. This helped her pay forward her gratitude to “others who helped me up the ladder. I got lucky and met the right people who were champions for me,” she says. “Now, I get to be that champion.”

Most notably, she instituted the new career-path options for the firm’s support professionals, who do “so much more than pure administrative work.” Now, they can aspire to numerous branch roles that never previously existed and are eligible officer titles. “That was unheard of when I was a client service associate,” she recalls. “Support professionals are now seen as an integral part of their teams and have clear growth opportunities and ways to be recognized for their efforts.”

Closer to Home
With her two sons and a husband, a retired NYPD detective and current business owner, at home on Long Island and one son about to leave for college, Trish eventually realized she needed to spend less time commuting to the firm’s Purchase, N.Y., headquarters and traveling around the country. “Morgan Stanley stepped up and made that happen” by offering her the branch manager opportunity close to home. Plus, she hadn’t yet tested her skills on the sales side of the business. “It’s a perfect fit. I can use what I have learned over the years to help the branch and learn a new side of the business at the same time” she says of her current role.

Still, Trish is grateful she was able to manage all those years on the road, instilling in her children the vision of hard work. Her own strong role model growing up was her mother, an executive who was “a full-time working mom at a time when that just wasn’t the norm. But having a mom who juggled it all is really what got me to where I am today.” She raised Trish and her three siblings with their father, and together they made many sacrifices to pay for her college education. “We didn’t have a lot growing up, but I never really knew that,” Trish reflects.

Her mom continues to be a light in her life. “She helped me and my husband raise my kids and still jumps in when the school nurse calls or someone needs a ride,” says Trish. When she was recently named a Morgan Stanley MAKER, joining a group of trailblazing women of accomplishment nominated by their peers, Trish’s first call with the news was to her mom.

An Imperfect Balance
Ask Trish about work-life balance and she’ll give you the honest truth: “There’s no such thing, no Holy Grail. I don’t think I’ve ever had a day that I felt completely balanced. You have to be okay with not being perfect. You can’t be Wonder Woman all the time.”

She’ll also point to the imbalance among us—and the importance of trying to close that gap in the best way you can. “There are so many people out there who are less fortunate. We are truly blessed to work in our industry, and it is so important that we all give back in our own way.”

For her part, she loves spending time mentoring young women in the industry. “I hope that I am encouraging them to achieve their dreams, take chances in their career, and to have confidence to take a seat at the table.” As a way of giving back to those who serve our country, Trish mentors military veterans as they reenter civilian life. “It is a small way that I have figured out how to say ‘thank you’ to those who protect us and sacrifice so much for our country.”

She also reaches women through HER Way, a community of women at Morgan Stanley dedicated to helping women achieve their personal and financial goals. It is an initiative that was launched by a group of female Financial Advisors in New York City. Trish has worked with the women Financial Advisors in her complex to build the first successful satellite group and hopes to help the movement grow. She’s adamant that women in wealth management have a responsibility to educate other women and share their knowledge. “We have to take the fear out of finance and empower women with education,” she says.

For Trish, one of the best things about being a branch manager is hearing the client success stories, especially of people building their own wealth. “We have incredible clients who have worked so hard to achieve the American Dream,” she says. “It’s great to be surrounded by that every day.”