This subcomplex manager—named a Morgan Stanley MAKER for all she does as an authentic leader and diversity champion—is living the dream job she long imagined growing up in Bogotá.
Ever since she was a little girl, Estella Eckart has been focused on finance. Growing up in Bogotá, Colombia, she convinced her father to let her sell the fruit off the citrus trees shading his coffee plants. She also played with her mother’s voided checks and pretended to be a bank manager, collecting deposits of stamps and jewelry from her sisters.
Today, as manager of Morgan Stanley’s Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area subcomplex, Estella is living her dream job—a “heart calling” for a woman who was always helping others manage their money. “What I love about my role is that I can be a vessel of change,” she beams.
Estella has been that vessel of change not only for clients but across the Firm and the industry as well. She helps other financial advisors find solutions, grow their practices and evolve in their careers. “Helping them grow is something that fills me with joy,” she says.
She speaks in what her team affectionately calls “Estellanese. Yes,” laughs Estella. “It’s my own language!” Comfortable and proud of her Latin accent, she reflects on an earlier time. “When I first started working in the U.S., I heard a presentation by a wholesaler from Brazil who seemed so comfortable with her accent. I approached her afterward and asked for her advice.” Her two comments stuck with Estella: “People have to pay more attention, so use that to your advantage, and always remember that similarities don’t sell—differences do.”
Born and raised in Bogotá, the middle child of six siblings, Estella is fond of her father, who “always embraced my crazy ideas and made them happen,” she says. “He taught me the importance of hard work and that I could accomplish whatever I wanted in life.”
When her parents divorced, Estella watched her mom struggle to have a sustainable financial life. This, she says, inspired Estella’s career as a Financial Advisor and her desire to help others, especially women going through transitions.
Determined to learn English, she decided to study abroad, choosing the University of Minnesota, where “the Hispanic community was so small I’d actually have to learn English.” Her plan was to return after six months to Colombia, where she had been studying economics. However, Estella fell in love with the Twin Cities—and a Minnesotan named Patrick.
“My husband has been a terrific supporter, always pushing me to do things that maybe I feel I can’t,” she says.
That kind of support is something she emulates with as many people as she can throughout her branches, where she is beloved as a committed, inclusive and approachable leader. “I’m vulnerable when I need to be vulnerable, strong when I need to be strong, but I’m always true to myself when leading in any situation,” says Estella, the first-ever Latina branch manager in the Great Lakes Region.
It takes a village, but every village needs a leader
One of the ways she builds bonds among teams is through volunteerism. She’s involved with nearly every charity anyone in her branch supports. From bake sales, walks/runs and food drives to building playgrounds and working in shelters and food pantries, “giving back to the community as a team helps us grow stronger and have a bigger impact,” she says.
Still, she believes in “the power of one. It takes a village, but every village needs a leader,” adds Estella, who has several organizations she personally supports. When her son was born with Craniosynostosis and at four months old had his cranial structure rebuilt, Ronald McDonald House provided “a place for us to rest and find some peace.” She also supports Greyhound Pets of America, which finds homes for retired racing greyhounds. She’s taken in five over the past 20 years. In addition, she plans and coordinates a Christmastime celebration at a small church in Bogotá each year. “It warms my heart to provide something for these kids that otherwise would get nothing,” she says.
Estella is grateful to be working at a firm that puts its people first and gives you “the freedom to be who you are.” Coming into the business, she thought she’d have to put motherhood to the side. But at Morgan Stanley, which extended her maternity leave upon learning about her baby’s medical needs, she learned “there’s no need to compromise. You can be a strong executive and strong mama as well.”
In fact, her biggest accomplishment, she says, is being a mom. Her two boys—seven-year-old Ignacio and three-year-old Emilio—are “my inspiration, my motivation and the reason I try to be a better person every day.”
An authentic leader with “a different style,” Estella wears bright pink scarves and calls herself “loud and very loving.” Even though the word “love” isn’t used much in the corporate world, she embraces it. “I lead from love. I love my team. I love my advisors. I love what I do, and I’m never afraid of saying it because I feel it. I think it.”
A champion for diversity, she founded and served as head of the diversity council for the Rockville, Md., branch, which she used to manage, and is a member of the Firm’s National Diversity and Inclusion Council. In 2008, she was honored by the Twin Cities Business and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce with the “25 on the Rise” award for professionals under 40 who are making a positive impact in the local Hispanic community. She’s been featured in the Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine as a Top Wealth Advisor.
In 2022, she was named a Morgan Stanley MAKER—joining a distinguished group of women and men, all nominated by their peers for serving as advocates, groundbreakers and innovators for women’s advancement. She calls it “a dream come true,” given how much appreciation and respect she has for all those who came before her.