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by Vault-Firsthand | August 16, 2022


Lesley Pickens is a business service officer in Morgan Stanley’s Wealth Management Field Service team. This team partners with Morgan Stanley’s financial advisors to carry out a consistent client experience and help clients achieve their goals. Recently, we spoke with Lesley about her background, her career trajectory, what attracted her to Morgan Stanley, the advice she has for students and young professionals looking to join Morgan Stanley, and more. Below is an excerpt from that conversation.

Vault-Firsthand: Can you talk a little about your background and how you found your way to your current role at Morgan Stanley?

Lesley: I grew up in a suburb of Anchorage, Alaska, and moved to Anchorage after high school. I decided to enter the workforce right away, since I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study in college or what type of career I wanted to pursue. I knew I liked helping people, so I got a job at a call center of a local telecom company, then moved onto a big life insurance company to seek out more career opportunities. In 2015, I started with Morgan Stanley as a client service associate (CSA). I worked with several financial advisor teams and enjoyed getting to know clients, their families, and their financial goals. When I got promoted to my current role as a business service officer (BSO) I was offered the opportunity to move to Washington State to lead a team of support professionals. It’s always brought me a lot of joy and satisfaction to help someone find a solution or work towards a goal, and now I can now do that on a broader level with the entire office.

What specifically attracted you to Morgan Stanley?

From my experience in the financial services industry, there were two big things that mattered to me: the people I’d be working with and the culture I’d be working in. I wanted to work with people who motivated me to be better—who wanted to collaborate and find ways to grow themselves and their teams. I also wanted to work in an inclusive environment where everyone was accepted and respected. Along with those two important things, which Morgan Stanley offered, I was excited to find out that the firm encourages employee growth and development and that upward mobility was a possibility. I had a strong feeling that I’d be encouraged and supported throughout my career, which made the decision to join Morgan Stanley easy.

Could you describe a typical day in your work life?

I’m an early riser and like to jumpstart my days with some quiet time and time with my pets before heading into the office. At the office, each morning, when the markets open, our local management team meets. We connect on what we’ve each got going on and discuss branch happenings. The management team—comprised of sales, risk, and service team members—truly feels like a family. I genuinely care about the people on the team and look forward to working with them each day, collaborating with them, and finding ways to innovate with them. The energy is incredible when we’re discussing ways to help our office connect and grow.

Also, several days a week, I meet with my peers to discuss upcoming changes, progress against goals, and anything we see going on in our respective local markets. Throughout the day, I also work with support professionals and financial advisors to find creative solutions to better assist their clients and lead, coach, and develop my team. This looks different every day and is what keeps me on my toes.

My favorite part of my day is meeting with teams to look for ways to help them grow professionally, improve their client service models, and find ways to make their relationships with their clients stronger and more resilient. This involves looking at ways to better engage with clients digitally, providing the full firm resources to clients, and ensuring communication with clients is thoughtful and timely.

Could you speak about some of the career growth opportunities you’ve been exposed to at Morgan Stanley?

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with and be mentored by many individuals who’ve shaped me and my career. My first manager, Sonja, was an integral part in my early days at Morgan Stanley. She supported my goals and looked for ways to help me grow. My first big goal was to complete the Series 7 and Series 66 exams to become a registered CSA within my first year. To help me accomplish that, she registered me in a nationwide training program with a study plan and weekly calls with a trainer and peers. She also helped me prepare a study schedule to keep me on track. With Sonja’s support, I passed both of my exams ahead of my one-year goal.

Once I was fully registered, I started working on my next big goal, which was to set myself up to eventually step into a management role. Again, Sonja was there to support this part of my journey. I brought to her the idea of getting my supervisory licenses, and she nominated me to join the Morgan Stanley Leadership Readiness Program to go alongside the exams. She mentored me through the program and also brought in another BSO to guide me in this process. I learned from their two different viewpoints and leadership styles to help set my own style. Within the leadership program, I learned where I could grow, then pushed myself in those areas. I spoke on local, regional, and national calls, connected with others across the firm, and shared best practices with my peers. I was also able to put my new leadership skills into practice by mentoring new team members in my office and in other offices, which allowed me to understand how to teach others with different learning and communication styles from my own. This has proven to be a key skill in my current role.

How would you describe Morgan Stanley’s culture?

Our culture is centered on growth and development, and there’s so much opportunity for individuals who want to evolve in their careers. There isn’t just one path, either. You can grow in your current role, take a different path like becoming a financial advisor, or follow a path like mine in leadership. No matter what direction you want to take your career, Morgan Stanley offers pathways to growth and supports you each step of the way.

I understand you’re passionate about cultivating a collaborative environment and creating community at work. Could you speak about one of the community initiatives you’ve led or been a part of?

There are a variety of things I’ve participated in or led. Locally, we ran a call series that we called Belonging Calls, in which we had different employees share their personal stories and their sense of belonging despite their different experiences. A team member discussed having an autistic son, someone else shared what it means to be ethnically diverse, and I spoke about the experience of being an adopted child. Getting to hear these stories and see the ways people connected to each other was inspiring. It was incredible to see the ways we’re more alike, and to also celebrate the differences that exist and allow for a richer, more dynamic team.

Could you speak about the work/life balance in your current role?

A longtime personal goal of mine has been to pursue a bachelor’s degree. I feel fortunate to be in a role that allows me to balance online classes and coursework with a full-time career. I’ve been able to leverage the firm’s tuition reimbursement program to help offset some of the costs of the degree program, which is a benefit that I believe to be invaluable.

Outside of work, I also love to spend time with my family and my dogs.

What do you recommend to students or job seekers looking to join Morgan Stanley?

Be yourself and be willing to share your story with as many people as you can. This is a company that’s inclusive to people from different backgrounds and experiences. The credentials you put on your resume matter, but finding the right culture fit is even more important. When I’m looking to add someone new to the team, I like to get to know them on a personal level. I’ve found that having individuals with varied career and life experiences allows for better teams, which in turn leads to better client experiences. The different experiences everyone had prior to joining Morgan Stanley creates different views of problems and different ways to solve them.

Also, upward mobility and physical mobility is possible, regardless of where you begin your career. Opportunities to potentially choose the location for my next role wasn’t something I had before at other organizations. Over the years at Morgan Stanley, I’ve made sure to incorporate in my career conversations where I’d like to work next. This is another reason why I feel confident that Morgan Stanley is a place where I can truly grow.

This post was sponsored by Morgan Stanley.