Carla Harris is a Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley. She was Vice Chairman of Wealth Management from 2013 through 2021 and Chair of the Morgan Stanley Foundation from 2005 to 2014; she also sits on the boards of several community organizations. In August 2013, Carla was appointed by President Barack Obama to chair the National Women’s Business Council. She is a gospel recording artist and a popular public speaker who gives impactful career guidance to corporate audiences based on her book, “Expect to Win.” Carla joined Morgan Stanley in 1987 after completing an AB in economics from Harvard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Tell me about your first day at Morgan Stanley.
I started at Morgan Stanley right out of business school in 1987, when mergers and acquisitions were a constant occurrence. I remember the feeling of excitement on my first day here 27 years ago because I was coming to a firm that was a leader in the marketplace — a position we still hold today. I was just as proud then as I am now to be part of such a brilliant team and such a successful franchise.
How have you progressed and evolved through your time at Morgan Stanley?
For my first 10 years at the firm, I worked on some of the largest initial public offerings on record. Today, I am responsible for increasing business and client connectivity across the Wealth Management, Investment Banking and Sales & Trading businesses to contribute to the success of the firm.
When starting a relationship with a client, I help them to understand all of what Morgan Stanley can do for them. I work to show them how we can deliver on their needs, whatever they might be, and that we are a point of connectivity for every part of their life.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
On any given day, I may fly into a city to meet with an institutional client, and then make a presentation to one of our Wealth Management branches on how to use firm resources to enhance client relationships and build business. There may be opportunities to speak to a gathering of prospective and current clients about anything from leadership to Capital Markets. Then I might address a group of women, or minority business owners, and share how Morgan Stanley can be helpful to them before concluding the day as a keynote speaker to a large gathering of our clients.
While some days are heavily weighted toward our Wealth Management business, on other days the agenda might be more skewed toward our institutional business.
Describe the culture at Morgan Stanley and how it contributes to great ideas.
“Collegial” is the word I use all the time. Ours is a very collegial culture and people here are focused on the team rather than themselves. One of the things that attracted me to Morgan Stanley was that it has a developmental demeanor where people are always willing to teach you and show you how to do things.
In a team environment such as this, we don’t place any premium on an idea coming from one person over another. We are all in the room together, working to the same end, and everyone is expected to contribute diverse ideas. When a great, out-of-the-box idea appears, it is valued and appreciated no matter from whom it came.
How are the wisdom and experience of leaders at Morgan Stanley shared across the firm and what makes for a successful mentoring relationship?
Everyone needs guidance at some time or another. Business is not about hard work alone; you have to invest in relationships as well. I participate in helping my colleagues in a variety of ways as an advisor, a mentor or a sponsor.
As an advisor, I am able to provide general career advice and guidance to a lot of people I have not gotten to know personally, but who seek counsel or ask for an opinion. Mentoring opportunities are more selective; no one can mentor everyone they meet. A mentor needs to be someone you have chosen to have a relationship with, and likewise they have chosen you. Both parties must get to know and trust each other for the relationship to be effective because as a mentor you have to be definitive and tell the truth.
Finally, sponsors are those who carry your name with them into the room and behind closed doors will argue passionately on your behalf. They are spending their political and social capital on you. For both those whom I mentor and whom I sponsor, I expect them to do as equally passionate a job to mentor and sponsor others down the road.
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