Morgan Stanley MAKER Fely Cieza, recently retired, reflects on her career in wealth management, her role models and how there’s no better time for women to be in finance.
No two days are the same. That is what Fely Cieza, Regional Sales Manager of the Mid-Atlantic Region at Morgan Stanley, always appreciated most about her job. “I loved getting up in the morning and wondering what the day would bring,” she beams. “How’s the team going to do? What will the markets do?”
She loved experiencing all of this while being “surrounded by smart people. They raise my game.”
Pointing to similarities with competitive sports, Fely reflects on how being around strong colleagues, particularly women, is a huge positive. “Like being on a team and playing in that championship game, you perform so much better because you’re in good company.”
In the industry for 30 years before retiring in June 2021, Fely says there’s no better time for women to be in finance. “I truly believe the more diverse we are—personally, professionally and culturally—the better results we see.” To Fely, who managed the region’s sales team (including business development managers, field trainers and product specialists who work with 1,200 Financial Advisors from Philadelphia down to coastal Georgia in more than 60 branch offices) from her home base in Washington, D.C., this relationship business is naturally well-suited to women. “It’s all about what the client needs and wants, and helping them get there, together.”
From her immigrant grandmother who worked in a hotel kitchen, to her Spanish mother who came to the U.S. with nothing and taught herself a new language, to her grown daughter who inspires and influences her every day, Fely has had many women role models over the years—motivators and “teammates” that have raised her game, at home and at work. “These women worked their entire lives and have been a big influence on my life,” says Fely.
Born and raised in New York City, Fely grew up speaking Spanish but easily picked up English when she started school. The first in her family to attend college, she started at a state school then transferred to New York University, where she studied journalism and American history. Never taking an accounting or economics course, she took a job writing the analysts’ morning notes for a financial firm right out of college.
“That’s how I learned the business—by osmosis,” she recalls. She remembers the director of research as an off-putting man who, with friendly persistence, ended up being a kind teacher. “You learn by asking a lot of questions,” she says. “Anytime I didn’t understand something, I would just ask.”
After several years at the firm, Fely got married and later went on maternity leave. She switched firms after her employer, not thinking Fely would be returning after her leave, cut back her bonus. In time, her career blossomed as she worked for over a dozen years in equity sales, then as a sales manager, then in national sales. She took time off to enjoy her then high-school-aged daughter’s soccer games and ballet recitals then found herself “really wanting to get back in the big leagues” and followed up on a job lead at Morgan Stanley.
Thriving at Morgan Stanley for seven years, Fely is grateful to have been recently named a Morgan Stanley MAKER, joining a group of accomplished women nominated by their peers. For Fely, this honor means “that you’ve somehow been true to yourself. You’re authentic, you’ve stuck with it, someone else recognized it and is saying ‘thank you.’”
One of her proudest accomplishments was serving as co-chair of the Women in Wealth Employee Network with fellow MAKER Jessica Desjardins. Together, they planned chapter meetings, events and other experiences to bring women together. They also partnered with the other employee networking groups to “walk the talk” when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. “We have this core of very dedicated people who have spent a tremendous amount of time on our Women in Wealth efforts,” she explains.
Another one of Fely’s passions was mentoring and advocating for women throughout the Firm.
“Just call me; we’ll get something on the calendar,” she would say of anyone interested in her time. She still takes a coaching versus consulting approach to mentoring. “For me, it’s about getting someone to come to a conclusion on their own or simply having them view a situation from a different perspective,” says Fely, who learned from a mentor years ago that “confrontation doesn’t have to be ugly. Rather, you can simply say, ‘hey, I don’t agree with this. What if we did it this way?’”
After several Financial Advisors in her region had been named MAKERS, Fely and colleagues had an idea: to bring the MAKERS together to share their stories. It led to an extraordinary event called “MAKERS on the Move” that drew a large audience at its first gathering. “It was just a beautiful event with such authenticity,” Fely remembers.
Fely reflects on how women often discourage any positive attention on themselves or their accomplishments. But when it comes to being a MAKER, it’s good to “take a bow once in a while. It’s alright to say ‘yes, we did it, and we did it together—as a team.’”