This Morgan Stanley Managing Director’s mission is to help others through mentoring—fostering opportunities for diverse individuals. Her happiness comes in seeing others succeed.
Karen Veary has always been competitive but likes to win as a team. “Coming together is the most important thing,” says the Morgan Stanley Managing Director. “Every team member contributes, and we win or lose as a group."
She learned early how to be a team player, going back to her catching days on her youth softball teams. She and her six siblings grew up in central New Jersey as close-knit family. The middle child, she was the only one who didn’t go away to college or the military after graduating from high school. Instead, at 17, she got a full-time job at a local bank and began, at 18, taking college courses at night, which she did for nine years, taking advantage of the bank’s tuition reimbursement program.
Karen graduated from college not only free of student loans but with many years of banking experience, having worked her way up from teller to branch manager, holding nearly every position in between. When an opportunity in the internal audit department opened, she was willing to make the lateral move. “It allowed me to truly understand how banks operate,” she says.
It was an active time for bank mergers and acquisitions. Karen was vital to her internal audit team for many years before her employer was acquired and they asked her to move to Boston or New York City. Not wanting such a drastic change for herself, her three small children and her husband (her high-school sweetheart), she declined. She was laid off after 14 years at the bank, where “I thought I’d be forever!”
Just before she was about to start a new job a few months later, the nation endured the attacks of September 11, which froze the industry. Karen leveraged her network and started to consult. Over the next five years, she worked on special projects, audits and risk assessments for a dozen financial institutions.
In 2007, Karen was thrilled to be referred by a colleague for a position at Morgan Stanley, working in audit covering a broad range of functions, including capital markets, operations and banking. Since 2011, she’s held roles in trust, mortgages and business risk, where her work on regulatory and compliance matters has been lauded.
In fact, in December 2019, she was asked to take on a broader role managing product risk and regulatory matters for the Firm’s U.S. banks. “When people hear I work with rules and regulations, they think it’s dry and boring,” she laughs. “But I work very well with partners in legal, compliance, risk and audit and have a level of curiosity that drives me to find solutions while staying within the boundaries.”
Karen looks back with pride at the career moves she’s made, realizing that “sometimes, to get ahead, we have to take a step to the side. While each one wasn’t necessarily a promotion, they still gave me the experience I needed to be successful in my next role.”
Now that she has many mentees within the Firm and the industry, she shares that notion of having faith in the journey. “While important, don’t solely focus on salaries, promotions or titles,” she advises. “All that can be taken away, but the experience you gain cannot. That experience will allow you to continue to grow and further develop in your career.”
Karen took mentoring a step further in 2019, when she became a senior sponsor of BLEND, the Black and Latino Employee Networking and Development Group of Morgan Stanley’s U.S. banks. With a mission to attract, develop and retain Black and Latino employees, BLEND “allows us to work together and offer different opportunities to diverse individuals,” says Karen.
While the pandemic put their networking events on hold last year, Karen is excited for the online opportunities being planned for 2021. Like every good team leader, she says her greatest happiness comes from seeing others around her succeed. “It’s not easy, as none of us have a crystal ball to see the results of our decisions,” she says. “But having a network to discuss issues and challenges is helpful for future generations.”
Karen, who still lives in the town in which she grew up, was recently named a Morgan Stanley MAKER, joining a group of trailblazing women of accomplishment nominated by their peers. Even this she sees as a team effort. “What’s really important is the collective contributions of each MAKER,” she reflects. “Together, we are making an impact. Collectively, we are making a difference.”