Event planner turned financial planner, Mara Bralove has long known the value of listening. Today, this Morgan Stanley MAKER is recognized for her generosity in mentoring others.
Financial Advisor Mara Bralove grew up in Bethesda, Md., not far from the U.S. Capitol, with her tight-knit family—her younger sister, artistic mother and Financial Advisor father. For Mara’s Bat Mitzvah, her father gave her a couple hundred dollars to invest. “I picked three stocks, and every day I would look in the paper to see how they were doing,” Mara remembers.
Over the years, she continued to check those stocks and watch “my little investment grow.” Yet “finance was the last thing on my mind growing up,” says Mara, who went on to study art history and French at the University of Pennsylvania.
After graduating magna cum laude, she worked as a biking and hiking tour guide, mainly in France and Italy, given her fluency in both languages. When she decided she was ready to come back “home,” she got a job Sidwell Friends School, the co-ed Quaker day school (preschool through 12th grade) she attended for 13 years. Her father, aunt, uncle, cousins and sister all went there—and her own children now do, too. She worked in the development office and led their special events.
From there, she launched and ran her own event-planning company in Washington, D.C., for several years. Longing for something more “intellectually stimulating” and to help people in a new way, she finally had the conversation with her father about wealth management. “I will introduce you to people to talk to, and I think you'll be very good at it,” he said.
She did her research. Mara spoke with several folks in his office then called her childhood friend Emily, who followed in her own father’s footsteps to become a Financial Advisor herself. “This business is all about people,” she told Mara, who, 18 years later, still wholeheartedly agrees.
We’re listening to the client and translating their vision into our world to help them achieve their aspirations.
Today, Mara manages The Bralove Group at Morgan Stanley, an advisory team of five, including her father, Steve, who focus on multigenerational families and the wealth complexities they face. A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM (CFP®) and a Family Wealth Advisor, Mara is now a Portfolio Management Director, Alternative Investments Director and member of the Firm’s President’s Club. “We love getting to know each family member and pride ourselves on taking people throughout life milestones, whether buying their first home, starting a family or retiring,” she beams.
Mara points to similarities that made it easy to transition from event planning to financial planning: “In both cases, we’re listening to the client and translating their vision into our world to help them achieve their aspirations.”
As both a tour guide and an event planner, Mara had already learned the importance of delivering “incredible experiences” and “above and beyond” service. At Morgan Stanley, she quickly learned that the industry is a “well-kept secret for women. It’s intellectually stimulating, collaborative and flexible, and we get to use some of our best skills, including empathy.” She adds that Morgan Stanley is the “firm of choice, because our network is so powerful.”
For those just entering the business, she advises women to do both “internal and external marketing. Show people in the community who you are, and get to know everybody in your branch.”
Mara “does a lot of listening in her own branch and complex” and feels fortunate to have been chosen by the Firm to join its national FA Advisory Council, where she gets to connect and collaborate with other advisors and senior management. She also enjoyed serving on the Firm’s local diversity council and helping with its Return to the Office program. “I like bridging the gap between our branch and corporate management,” says Mara, who also works hard at “building consensus and making sure everyone's voice on the team is heard.”
Known for her generosity of spirit and time in mentoring others, particularly women, Mara is the “go-to mentor” for early-stage career women in her complex, including summer interns and full-time branch analysts. It’s one of the many reasons 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 “an honor and an incredible thrill to be recognized for something that's important to me, which is helping women succeed.”
She’s earned other accolades as well, including the President’s Club Community Leader Award and the 2021 Invest in Others Award for her community involvement, which includes serving on the board of Imagination Stage, a children’s theater in Bethesda, and Theater J, a nationally recognized Jewish theater in D.C. She’s been named to the Forbes list of America’s Best-in-State Wealth Advisors, America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors Best-in-State and America’s Top 200 Women Wealth Advisors. She’s also on Working Mother’s list of Top Wealth Advisor Moms.
Key to her success has been “authenticity,” she says. “I truly care about our clients and take a genuine interest in their lives. I love learning about people.”
Among her greatest joys is motherhood and seeing the bond between sons, Elie, 14, and Felix, 11. “They really have each other’s backs,” says Mara, who enjoys spending time with her boys and husband, Ari, especially outdoors, hiking and being inspired by nature.
High on her list of daily inspirations are “the many women here at the Firm,” she says. “I feel incredibly fortunate to have had mentors who I could call at any time. I’ve learned so much from the way they treat others and manage their practices. The women of Morgan Stanley truly are remarkable.”
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