Back in 2018, Mariam, an Executive Director in the Insitutional Equity Division in our London office, was looking for a change of pace—to have some fun while learning a new skill in her free time. So she and a friend decided to go all-in on Texas Hold’em. “My friend’s dad is really good at poker, and he offered to teach us,” Mariam says. “Before we knew it, other women were asking to play with us.”
That marked the beginning of the Ladies' Poker Society. Originally a small group of Mariam and her friends, today LPS boasts 50 members, and its most recent gathering drew more than 80 players.
The women also added a twist to the fast-moving, highly competitive game—a staple of spy movies and male-bonding poker nights. All winnings go to Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation initiative for adolescent girls around the world.
“The whole idea behind LPS is to take the competitive aspect out of the game,” says Mariam, who was born and raised in London and attended the University of Bristol. “It’s about a group of women coming together to do something different and, at the same time, to learn about a charity they might not be aware of. It’s hard to explain, but it’s amazing to feel the supportive atmosphere in the room at our events.”
That feeling of collegiality also permeates the office, Mariam says. When interviewing to join Morgan Stanley, she was immediately drawn to the way her now-colleagues define success. “I could tell almost right away that in this culture, you will do better in your career if you help other people do well,” she says. “It’s not enough to get ahead yourself—you need to make sure other people succeed alongside you.”
I was one of those people exposed to the financial industry from a young age. I have two older brothers, and they both studied finance-related subjects at university. Financial services seemed suited to my skills as well; I was always more of a math mind in school.
I work on the securities lending team, which has two different areas of focus. When I first joined Morgan Stanley, I was on the trading side, responsible for going out and sourcing shares to lend to our hedge fund clients. A year ago, I moved to the hedge fund distribution side, which means I now interact with hedge fund clients to understand what they want to achieve on a day-to-day basis. I probably cover close to 100 clients and some of our clients are more active traders than others.
During my last year of high school, an investment bank sponsored an informational day for students before we attended university. We were taken to the equities trading floor, and something quite big—I don’t remember what—happened in the news. The reaction on the floor was crazy. It was loud and very, very busy. If you’re in an environment like that, you’re in the loop and you feel like you’re a part of what’s happening in the world. It was incredibly exciting.
When I was at university, I participated in a spring program at a different firm. It was not a good fit for me and the experience made me wonder if I was really interested in banking at all. The following year, I had a flatmate who dragged me along to a Morgan Stanley networking event because she didn’t want to go by herself. The event was nothing like I expected. I remember it so clearly; it was such a good evening. The amazing thing was that everyone there from Morgan Stanley had been at the firm 15 years or more. They loved their jobs and seemed so happy, which made me feel like there had to be something special about this place.
One of the things that really stands out to me is that our Managing Directors all have offices around the trading floor, but they never sit in them. Our managers sit with us on the floor all day, every day. You rarely see them in their offices, and if they are, the doors are almost never closed.
My ability to cope with stress has massively improved since I joined the firm. Most of the recent graduates who join Morgan Stanley have done well in school their whole lives. You go from being at school, where you’re able to be a perfectionist, to a trading floor, where it’s inevitable that you’ll make mistakes. One thing that’s really helped me to move on from my mistakes is getting advice from more senior people at the firm. We have these senior speaker series with small groups of colleagues that are very informal and relaxed. When you hear from leaders at the firm about how far they’ve come, you realize that you have to make mistakes in order to grow and become more resilient.