• Women Financial Advisor Forum

Why One Minnesota Branch Manager Believes Driving Diversity and Inclusion Are Among Her Greatest Priorities

Yedda Marks strives to build a culture that feels like family through diversity, inclusion, and mentoring.

Bloomington, Minnesota – When Yedda Marks became Branch Manager of the Bloomington, Minnesota Morgan Stanley Wealth Management office in 2012, everyone on her management team was male. Today, her team is made up entirely of women.

“That wasn’t exclusively my decision,” says Yedda, who admits that filling some of the positions were not her direct responsibility. “But I had an opportunity to weigh in on two candidates who had long tenures with the firm, and this was an opportunity to promote from within.”

Still, diversity and inclusion are Yedda’s passions and when she’s not managing the branch, she’s spending time working on driving these initiatives at the firm.

“I believe that lack of diversity is a huge business risk,” says Yedda. “To give value to and retain our clients, to reflect the communities we serve now and in the future, and to build trust we need to have a diverse employee population. And that’s diversity of age, demographics, gender, and race. We’re working on it. It just takes time.”

Yedda Marks, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

Diversity and Inclusion are Yedda’s passions.

According to Yedda, she believes she was chosen to be a member of the MAKERS@ Morgan Stanley Class of 2016 because of what she’s accomplished with respect to driving diversity and inclusion at the firm, particularly as it relates to women.

“In 2011, shortly after joining the firm, I was asked by Divisional Director Bill McMahon to be on his Diversity Operating Council, and in 2014, I was honored to be nominated to the National Diversity Council. In 2015, I launched the Minnesota/Dakotas complex chapter of Women @ Morgan Stanley to expand our focus from exclusively women advisors to include all women employees.”

“I spend a great deal of time on activities related to attracting, retaining and developing diverse employees, whether Financial Advisors or support staff, and I use mentoring as my tool to accomplish all three. As a member of the National Diversity Council, I am leading the charge to develop and institutionalize a national mentoring program for diverse trainees. So it’s a passion and it is very visible to others because I am always in search of opportunities to dive in.”

On a more personal note, Yedda is most proud of the difference she’s made for many of the people she’s mentored.

“I’m able to make a difference by helping others think about and understand where they are in their careers, identify and evaluate next steps, and then help give them the confidence and support to move forward,” she says. “You need to be a good listener. Through coaching and sometimes ‘hand-holding,’ I have supported mentees in making tough decisions that had been avoided but needed to be made for the individual to progress in their careers and to enhance overall professional and personal satisfaction.”

Yedda first joined Morgan Stanley in 2010 in the downtown Minneapolis legacy Smith Barney office, but left in 2012 when a field restructuring threatened her job. She returned to UBS Financial Services where she had been since 2006 when UBS acquired Piper Jaffray, the firm she had been with since 1994. However, in October 2013 she was asked to return to Morgan Stanley when an opening became available in the Bloomington branch.

Along with the progress she has made with respect to diversity and inclusion, Yedda believes her greatest accomplishments involve her day-to-day work in the branch, partnering with Financial Advisors.

“If I can solve problems, remove roadblocks, and make it easier for my Financial Advisors to grow profitable wealth management practices, while creating a culture where people enjoy coming to work every day, I will have done my job,” says Yedda.

Interestingly, the day Yedda received the call that she was to be a MAKER, she was also promoted to Executive Director.

“Both came out of left field,” says Yedda, who was a Financial Advisor earlier in her career. “Having started in this industry as an FA in 1986, even though it was a long time ago and for a brief period of my career, the experience provided me with an understanding of the pressures FAs work under and the importance of follow-through, direct and transparent communication, and relationship-building, which I hope have made me an effective branch manager.”

Today one of her goals involves recruiting both experienced advisors and trainees from diverse populations.

“It can be a challenge in the Midwest,” she says. “The firm has set high goals for hiring diverse trainees and we’re putting our heads together to figure out the best way to attract diverse talent.”

What Yedda won’t do is try to convince a candidate that this is a career for everyone.

“This is a great business but hard to get established. I want anyone considering our program to come in with their eyes wide open,” she says. “I am very blunt about the challenges and sacrifices it takes to be successful. If the candidate lights up with excitement, I will move on to describe why Morgan is the firm of choice, hands down! If I sense fear or hesitation, I will not move forward with the hiring process as I would only be doing them, and our firm, a disservice.”

As a leader, Yedda adheres to 5 core principles:

  • Lead with integrity.
  • Respect is not optional.
  • Honor yourself and your colleagues with high expectations.
  • Clients are always at the center of everything we do.
  • Diversity, inclusion, and mentoring are integral to the growth and richness of our culture. If I can be an effective ambassador in this arena, I will have made a positive difference.

“I strive to build a culture that feels like a family,” Yedda adds. “I want everyone to feel we are partners and we all contribute to the success of our branch.”