Katerina Simonetti

MAKER Katerina Simonetti Bakh: Serving Those Who Serve

Jun 6, 2024

Meet Katerina Simonetti Bakh, a military spouse who founded Morgan Stanley’s Military Family Support Group.

Katerina Simonetti Bakh still vividly remembers moving from Ukraine to Cuba when she was five and attending local schools taught entirely in Spanish. “Cuba is a melting pot, and I loved being in class with children of every skin color,” says the Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Advisor of her childhood experience in the Caribbean country, where the family had relocated for her father’s job.


At age 10, she returned to her home country having experienced a real-world lesson in adaptability. “I learned to make the best of a situation, and that, no matter how scary and imperfect an experience might be, you’re going to be okay,” she says.

Katerina Simonetti

We’re proud to bring you the story of Private Wealth Advisor Katerina Simonetti Bakh, a military spouse who founded Morgan Stanley’s Military Family Support Group.We’re proud to bring you the story of Private Wealth Advisor Katerina Simonetti Bakh, a military spouse who founded Morgan Stanley’s Military Family Support Group.


Reinforcing that notion was her mother, a geologist who went on a three-month-long expedition through the wilderness in the taiga of the subarctic. “That adventure gave her the strength to know she was capable of doing anything,” she says. It was another inspiration for Katerina.


After high school, Katerina left the country once more, this time for the United States. She studied economics—something she couldn’t do in the Soviet Union—at the Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, a “wonderful experience” that included joining classmates’ families for holiday celebrations when she could not make it home. “That love and acceptance is what makes America so great,” she beams.


When her father fell ill with meningitis, Katerina returned home. Her mother had given up her job to care for him. “Dad paid all the bills, and while Mom cared for him, the household finances fell on me,” says Katerina, who remembers the stacks of statements that had “piled up on dad’s desk, giving me a sinking feeling.” 


Despite her economics degree, she was not exposed to personal finance, like budgeting, saving or investing. Driven to “figure it out” so she could take care of her family, Katerina thrived in “taking something complex and simplifying it.” Once she organized the bills and got them paid, Katerina felt better—so much so that she wanted to help others feel the same. “I realized I wanted to become a financial advisor.”


When her dad’s health improved, Katerina returned to the U.S. to finish her education and was thrilled to join Morgan Stanley in 1999 as part of the Financial Advisor Associate training program. Though the industry had few women advisors at the time, she was fortunate to find mentors, including her business partner Jim Small, who would remind her: “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think,” a quote from A.A. Milne character Winnie the Pooh that often put a “confident spring in my step to go out and win new business.”


It’s that kindness and humanity that has always inspired Katerina, especially in raising her three sons—now ages 16, 14 and 2. Wealth Management is “one of the best industries to be in as a mom,” she says, “and the culture at Morgan Stanley is remarkably supportive.”


Jim and Katerina, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), have been working together for more than 20 years, as partners in the Green Wave Wealth Management Group at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management, a six-person team based in Philadelphia. Katerina makes it a point to be accessible to the young women coming up in the industry and is grateful when she can inspire them. This includes Carolyn Bradley, who joined the team in 2021. “One of my most rewarding experiences was when Carolyn, who was our client service associate at that time, told me that she decided to become a financial advisor,” says Katerina. “It is my absolute joy to continue to guide and mentor her.” 

Sharing stories and introducing and encouraging connectivity is what we’re all about.
Regarding the firm’s Military Family Support Group


Katerina met her current husband, Andre, a U.S. Naval Officer, as a divorced mom. As their relationship progressed, she again learned to adapt, this time to the military lifestyle. Her life lessons in strength helped sustain their union through several overseas assignments. “I am fascinated by his devotion to serving this country, and I’m committed to his service,” she says.


A month after they married, Andre was redeployed to the Middle East. Watching Katerina try to prepare herself and her children for his year-long absence, he said to her: “I’ve got to believe your firm has something to help military families; another employee must have gone through this already.”


To their surprise, a group for military families had yet to be formed—a mission that beckoned Katerina. Immediately, she got to work, and in 2020, with Morgan Stanley’s full support, she started bringing together “many wonderful people and making remarkable employee connections” through the new Military Family Program within the firm’s Veterans Employee Network, which connects and helps roughly 1,200 members.


Not long after the group’s formation, Katerina spearheaded Morgan Stanley’s partnership with Blue Star Families, an organization founded by military spouses to create strong local communities of support. Now, employees who are Veterans and military spouses at the firm have access to even more resources to help them thrive where they live and work.


Through mentoring programs and networking events and even inspiring fireside chat webcasts with fellow military spouses and partners at the firm, Katerina has created a vibrant community of mutual support. She’s proud to have helped colleagues not only with their finances but with networking, career mentoring, relocation services and more. Eventually, she connected with Veteran colleagues globally, joining forces with the firm’s U.K.-based Veterans Employee Network to share content. “Sharing stories and introducing and encouraging connectivity is what we’re all about,” she says.

With Morgan Stanley’s full support, Katerina Simonetti Bakh started bringing together “many wonderful [military] people and making remarkable employee connections.”


In addition to military families, Katerina has long been committed to helping other Ukrainians, a commitment driven home since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. That morning, she remembers lying in bed in tears, knowing that civilians in her home country—and in her own hometown of Odessa—were under attack. Yet, even after seeing “one of the most gut-wrenching things I never thought I’d see in my lifetime,” Katerina has faith in humanity. “I see how much the world is supporting the Ukrainian people.” For their own part, on a local scale, she and her children help to organize annual New Year’s Eve celebrations and provide financial support to Ukrainian refugees, mostly women and children living in Philadelphia.


For all of her efforts, Katerina has been named a Morgan Stanley MAKER, joining a community of advocates, innovators and groundbreakers for women’s advancement, all nominated by their peers. She’s proud to be among the firm’s MAKERS Class of 2024 who are making a difference in others’ lives.


“MAKERS go beyond saying they’d like things to be different,” says Katerina. “They do something about it, putting words into action. If each of us went out and changed one thing, the impact would be felt for generations.”

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