• Women Financial Advisor Forum

Be Afraid, But Do It Anyway

Erna Morgan McReynolds, one of Morgan Stanley’s top Financial Advisors with over 30 years of experience, encourages women to embrace the challenge of working in finance.

A career with no gender bias or boundaries in pay might seem elusive to some women. But Erna Morgan McReynolds says she’s found one.

“In what I do, there are no limits to how much I earn,” says Erna, a Financial Advisor at The Table Rock Group in Oneonta, N.Y., not far from the “beautiful, picturesque village” where she was raised. “I’m the only one who can limit my own potential.”

Yet, the wealth management industry still lacks women. “The percentage of women Financial Advisors is the same as it was when I started 30 years ago,” Erna points out. “For some reason, women don’t look at careers like this. It’s an amazing field where, honestly, every day I feel so useful.”

That feeling of purpose comes from the trust her clients place in her to help fund their life goals. “If I do anything wrong, people will fail in retirement or fail to achieve their dreams,” Erna explains. “I have to stay focused on doing the right thing for my clients.”

This career path, however, was not one she had envisioned for herself. “I started with no advantages in an era where a woman really had only three choices: secretary, nurse or teacher,” says Erna, who still felt a pull to do something different and landed a scholarship to a summer school for journalism.

Starting with a job as a news director for an Oneonta radio station, Erna went on to several roles in print and broadcast news, spanning London, New Zealand and New York City, where she produced NBC’s News Digest and would travel home for the weekends to see her husband, a financial advisor. At his office holiday party, someone suggested to Erna that she too would make a great financial advisor, so Erna decided to give it a try. “NBC gave me a leave of absence, and it turned out, I was good at it,” she says. 

More than good, Erna now manages $841 million of client assets and earned a place this year on Forbes’ list of America’s Top 200 Women Financial Advisors.

She is no stranger to awards. She has been named to Barron’s Top 100 Women Financial Advisors every year including this one, since 2008. She was named to The Financial Times’ Top 400 Financial Advisors in 2014, and to www.wealthmanagement.com’s 50 Top Wirehouse Women in 2015. Barron’s, in naming her to its Top 1200 Financial Advisors in 2015, also selected her as one of three top teams profiled by the magazine. In 2015, she was named a Morgan Stanley MAKER, at which time Erna said: “I was told that if you ask successful people for advice, they will lift you on their shoulders and carry you.”

Today, Erna spends a lot of time lifting women up, talking with them about seizing opportunity and encouraging them to explore careers like wealth management, “where there are no boundaries.” From financial planning seminars for women in health care to speaking events for the Women’s Initiative for NYU alumnae, Erna enjoys sharing her background and advice that inspires confidence. As part of a distinguished panel at the United Nations this past December, Erna told the audience: “It’s up to all of us to create an environment where, even if there are no ceilings, women can see themselves thriving.”

Women often ask Erna how she’s had the courage to make changes, to which Erna responds: “Everything I’ve ever done, I’ve been afraid to do, but I did it anyway.”