In the industry for nearly 30 years, Morgan Stanley MAKER Michelle Stewart, Mid-Atlantic Region Manager of Morgan Stanley Private Bank, jokes about having banking in her blood.
Michelle Stewart likes to joke that banking is in her blood.
Her parents met working at a bank. She was a bank teller in high school and all through college and met her husband working at a bank. In fact, now the Mid-Atlantic Region Manager of Morgan Stanley Private Bank, N.A., Michelle has been in banking for nearly 30 years.
“I have a strong skillset in banking, but it’s really the people; I love the people,” says Michelle. “I love the interaction. I enjoy working with Financial Advisors, their clients and especially my national sales team—having that camaraderie and interaction and watching people grow—that I really enjoy.”
She is fortunate herself to have had a strong support system complete with others watching her grow, from her parents who raised her in Northern California to her husband and children who now watch her lead with joy, to many mentors throughout Michelle’s career.
A dedicated and loyal manager who is passionate about diversity and inclusion, Michelle has established a supportive culture among her expanded team and always encourages growth. “We coach, we develop, and we make sure that we have an empowered team that can hold themselves accountable to being the best they can be,” she says.
Michelle says it is a privilege to serve on Morgan Stanley’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Allyship and Leadership (IDEAL) Council, which brings together many different lines of business to promote positive, progressive change. “We have to think about why we’re making decisions, how we can help people feel that they’re being included at all times, and that we’re taking their ideas and listening,” she says. “We have to get that message to each and every Firm employee, letting them know there are opportunities for every single walk of life.”
To describe more traits of a good leader, Michelle uses the words “commitment, passion, communication and transparency.” This is the kind of leadership that three decades in the business have brought to her managerial style. “Those on my team are pushing hard every day, and they need to know I’m in it with them,” she says. “They also need to feel confident and challenged and to find that they’re learning new things.”
In an extreme example of learning new things, Michelle had to take on new tasks and quickly become licensed, in just 90 days, to keep her managerial job in 2008, when her previous firm went through a large merger. “It was the surprise of a lifetime,” says Michelle of the aggressive reduction in the sales team. Fortunate to be chosen to stay with the newly merged entity, “I was thrust into a new culture and had to learn very quickly.”
With two young children at home and an often-traveling husband, she “found every coffee shop and library that was open on Sundays and until midnight,” she recalls of the days she’d “wake up with books on top of me.”
The decision to join Morgan Stanley almost six years later, leaving her previous employer of 20 years, was something Michelle didn’t take lightly. Unsure about leaving a traditional bank, she realized that there “was not much left to learn” and that with Morgan Stanley, “you’ve got a private bank, an investment bank, a wealth management platform, and so much more.”
A short time later, Michelle was “tapped on the shoulder” for her current regional manager position and made the decision to leave her California roots behind for the exciting new opportunity. She and her husband “packed up the house, the car, grabbed the dog and moved across the country,” with their kids to their new home in Washington, D.C.
With her deep industry experience, Michelle shares this advice: Be patient, and know your priorities. For her, it’s always been family. “It’s family that got me here and supported me through everything.”
Michelle also urges women to “keep learning—keep being curious, and find your support lines. Getting feedback is probably one of the most essential pieces to growing,” adds Michelle. “Make sure you ask for it.”
She remembers attending the Firm’s annual women’s conference in 2014, shortly after joining Morgan Stanley. There, she saw the inaugural class of Morgan Stanley MAKERS, a group of accomplished women nominated by their peers, being honored. “Mesmerized and inspired” is how she felt during the event. “The lights went down, and I remember listening to their stories and all they’ve accomplished and having such pride in the fact that I had joined a Firm that supported women in this way.”
Newly named a MAKER herself, she says it “feels like I am receiving a huge ‘thank you.’ Knowing I was able to inspire and affect someone in some way makes this more meaningful than any other award I could ever receive.”