This Morgan Stanley MAKER, a triathlete whose career has spanned four states, learned to adapt and adjust with each new opportunity. Now, she’s focused on developing others.
Morgan Stanley’s Katie Flaherty didn’t grow up an athlete. The Managing Director and Greater Philadelphia Complex Manager didn’t start running until age 30, after she had moved to Colorado for a new job.
Venturing into the unknown, she signed up and began training for her first half IRONMAN® triathlon. “I challenged myself to this much bigger feat than I had ever anticipated,” she says. “Crossing that finish line is still one of my life’s greatest accomplishments.”
Crossing that finish line is still one of my life’s greatest accomplishments.
Growing up in Minnesota the oldest of three girls and a daughter of divorce, she remembers her mom working hard “to support us and make it all work” and her dad telling “my sisters and me that we could do whatever we set our minds to, even do better than boys.”
When she was in her twenties, he gave her a book entitled The Four Agreements. “I didn't realize it at the time, but it contained lessons he had been trying to instill in my sisters and me our whole lives,” she says. “First, be impeccable with your word and have integrity with what you say. Don’t take things personally, which is so important in my line of work. Don’t make assumptions. Finally, always do your best.”
Katie carried these lessons to her career, which took an unanticipated turn into finance. While studying at the University of Minnesota, she “had no idea what I wanted to be.” The architecture major switched to elementary education before finally settling into business and economics.
Graduating in 1998 into a tight labor market, she took a customer-service job with a toy company in Minneapolis. She found it a difficult place to work and was delighted when her father connected her with a friend in wealth management who was looking for an assistant. She accepted the job, though “at the time, I really didn’t know what wealth management meant!”
Katie fell in love with the industry and worked her way up to Financial Advisor. She then moved to Denver, Colo., to manage a branch office. Intrigued by a future in management, she enrolled in a manager assessment program—but didn’t pass.
Devastated after she got word “I hadn't made it,” she now can say this: “Failure is part of growing. It’s inevitable if you're pushing yourself into something new. At some point, there’s going to be disappointment. As difficult as it is to feel the pain of not succeeding, other paths will open up that you never expected.”
Sure enough, they did. One of the management assessors offered her a job in Houston, Texas, where she would go to gain more experience as a manager, overseeing a private wealth office. “It was one of the best moves I ever made,” says Katie, who retook the manager assessment and passed.
After three years, Katie moved again, this time to Stamford, Conn., when her leadership skills were tapped to run her first complex. She relished “my dream job” for four years until another opened up, about four years ago, with Morgan Stanley in Philadelphia. This latest move put her in charge of eight branches and 203 Financial Advisors and support professionals who collectively manage more than $50 billion in assets (as of 4/2022).
“If someone had told me when I first started that I was going to run the Greater Philadelphia complex, I would've told them they were completely insane” she laughs.
Today, her number-one goal is developing talent, supporting individuals with the Firm’s resources so that they can be “wildly successful, whatever that means to them.” Katie works hard at being a good listener, getting to know what’s important to each individual, and is inspired by their successes. “That’s why I love what I do every day—coaching, connecting and communicating with people.”
It's our duty as corporate citizens to support the arts.
Her many moves around the country, having “to learn, adjust and adapt to new opportunities as they came along,” says Katie, “helped me to be curious and open to trying something new, even though it was scary. Each time, I told myself ‘I’m going to be okay. I just need to jump in and do my best, then hopefully good things will come.’”
And they have. Recently named a Morgan Stanley MAKER, joining a distinguished group of women and men of accomplishment, all nominated by their peers, Katie is honored to have been recognized for her support of others.
Still somewhat new to Philadelphia, Katie is grateful for the opportunities she has found to volunteer, meet, and support others. She helped launch the Philadelphia chapter of 100 Women in Finance, a worldwide organization that promotes diversity and gender equity in the finance industry. She’s also involved with the Forum for Executive Women, another organization that connects women professionals but across many industries.
Katie’s passion extends to the arts. She is co-chair of the corporate council of the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. In Texas, she worked with the symphony and the opera. While in Connecticut, she served on the board of the Bruce Museum. “It's our duty as corporate citizens to support the arts,” she says.
Over the years, Katie has learned what she can and cannot influence and advises other women to be their own advocates: “Identify the things you're interested in and people you want to connect with and don’t wait for it to happen.” The secret to her success, she adds, has been staying curious and adaptable. “Life takes us in different directions—and that might be to different cities and states. But no matter where your career goes, you have to prioritize what’s important.”
As one woman executive shared at a conference, “Life is like a bunch of balls in the air. If you drop the rubber ones, they’ll bounce back. But you can’t let the glass ones fall and shatter.”
These days, Katie’s glass ball is motherhood. Proud mom of a three-year-old daughter who “inspires me every day,” she’s learned to set boundaries and delineate work time from family time, which includes cooking for her husband, toddler and stepsons.
Looking back on that triathlon, Katie remembers not thinking she could finish. Once she did, “it allowed me to realize that no matter what happens, I can get through anything.”