Morgan Stanley MAKER Mary Gibbons Gardiner carries out her desire to help others both at work, helping clients and mentoring colleagues, and in her community, through volunteerism.
If you’re lucky enough to have worked with Mary Gibbons Gardiner, you know she’s a passionate advocate for diversity, particularly for women. As a founding member of the Blue Sandstone Group at Morgan Stanley, an all-female-led advisory team, she’s known for her mentorship of young women and her community engagements.
As a Financial Advisor and Family Wealth Director, Mary has a lot to offer both her clients and mentees. She has overwhelming support from managers as well as peers, including fellow members of LIFT—Ladies in Finance Together, the New York chapter of Women In Wealth, one of Morgan Stanley’s employee networks, which focuses on “lifting” and empowering women at the firm.
Mary is a natural leader who is committed to the values her Irish-immigrant parents instilled in her—education, giving back, and faith. The oldest of five children, Mary speaks fondly of her siblings and her family for their support. The first in her family to graduate from college, Mary believes the love and support she got from her parents has been key in shaping her and giving her confidence. “I knew I was loved and made to feel I could do anything,” she says.
I knew I was loved and made to feel I could do anything.
Mary graduated from Pace University and was recognized for her achievements by being selected to be part of the school’s two-year Leadership Development Program. She and the other students learned leadership and presentation skills and how to advocate for themselves and others. The biggest takeaway from the program was the emphasis on mentorship. “The program gave me a roadmap for how to be successful, in college, business and life,” she says. “I am still in touch with many of the program’s core people, who were my first board of directors in supporting me.”
One of Mary’s key strengths is her empathy. She often refers to her own mother, who was a stay-at-home mom until she began working at night when Mary was 12. Keeping a balance was difficult, but, putting herself in her mom’s shoes, Mary could see the change in her mother, empowered by earning her own money. “That's part of the reason I'm so passionate about empowering others with their finances,” says Mary, a working mother herself. She considers it a blessing to have raised her daughter, now 26, an “empowered young woman.”
Mary has accomplished a lot in her long-standing career. She began on Wall Street as a 22-year-old in technology sales. Her first boss told her to “put money into your 401k, because it would lower your taxes.” She had no intention of doing financial planning, but the fact that she was able to save starting so early made a difference in her financial life and her desire to help others.
Her second career was in banking, where she worked with Fortune 200 companies around the country in managerial and sales roles. Mary went through eight mergers and learned it was “always important to have a plan B.” So, she went to school at night to develop her financial-planning knowledge while working full time and raising her daughter. She credits her husband’s support as a key reason for her success.
Mary joined Morgan Stanley 17 years ago with the objective to build her financial advisory practice and is proud of the successful business and the team she has since built. What she learned about herself is that her core values helped her build a strong team and that she is good at identifying others’ talents and connecting complementary skill sets. “People can be as different as night and day, but being able to share core values and trust each other creates a successful partnership,” she points out.
One core value she builds her team around is empathy, helping colleagues “sit in the clients’ shoes and really understand their situation.” This, in turn, helps clients gain clarity in their financial lives with a roadmap. “We all have a history, perhaps a childhood that affects how we feel about finance,” she says. “Providing clients with that clarity is really empowering. That’s why I enjoy getting up every day to help make a difference in our clients’ lives.”
Over the years, she’s also learned to lean in wherever needed. When her daughter was in school, Mary was involved in many projects, from Girl Scouts to the PTA to the performing arts. When her daughter left for college, Mary joined the Board of Hospice of Westchester, where she just completed her third year as Chair of the Board.
She’s also active with Walking with Purpose, an all-women’s group, involved with learning more about the Catholic faith and the Bible. “It’s a great support network for my faith, to learn more about what more I can do here on earth to give back,” she says. “It's been an incredible experience.” She’s also a member of newly formed Pace University Alumnae group, where she’s busy developing scholarships for women and diverse students.
I feel a tremendous responsibility to continue to give back—and to raise that bar even higher.
At Morgan Stanley, Mary is the Vice President of the NY Metro Regional LIFT Council. During COVID, Mary bought women together to help each other in that difficult time. As Co-Chair of the Events Committee, Mary focused on events that advocated for women’s health and demonstrated the power of connecting through a talk with author Susan McPherson. Now, as Vice President of LIFT in the metro area, she has the opportunity to enhance the program with LIFT President, Jill Schildkraut-Katz.
When asked about being recently 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—Mary shared her excitement about this recognition and the importance of giving back to the community. “I am so grateful to join this sisterhood of women who've raised the bar in how they pay it forward,” she says. “I feel a tremendous responsibility to continue to give back—and to raise that bar even higher.”