Journey of Diversity
An interview with Susan Reid, Global Head of Talent at Morgan Stanley
By Carmen Gray
Susan K. Reid, the Global Head of Talent at Morgan Stanley, recently sat down with Alfredo
Estrada, the Editor-in-Chief of LATINO Magazine, to discuss diversity at her company. Among the
topics covered were her own journey as an immigrant, how the approach to diversity has
changed over the years, and the accomplishments she’s most proud of, such the Morgan Stanley
Institute for Inclusion, and the Latino Employee Network. Many thanks to Ms. Reid for taking
time to meet with us.
Thank you so much for speaking with us. I read a wonderful story where you were talking
about your journey from a “tiny blue house” in Jamaica to New York City. As an immigrant
myself, I'm wondering how this journey shaped your career aspirations?
Being an immigrant had a significant impact on my journey to Morgan Stanley and the role I'm
in now. You've heard the saying that if you can see it, you can be it; it's hard to have an
aspiration to do something that you haven't seen and haven’t experienced. Growing up in
Jamaica, to make your family proud you became a doctor, lawyer, or teacher. The notion of
financial services or an investment bank was not even on my radar. It took immigrating to the
U.S. and going to college to help me visualize that opportunity.
When I graduated, I was exposed to many different career options and eventually found my
way to financial services. I remember the light bulb moment when I was meeting recruiters and
discovering Human Resources. Here was a job where you could help other people find jobs.
That was music to my ears, maybe because I had struggled so much finding my own footing.
Now you're the Global Head of Talent at Morgan Stanley, and you oversee the firm’s
diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Can you tell us about your mission?
DEI is one body of work within an overall Global Talent portfolio that also includes oversight for
our Talent Acquisition and Talent Development efforts. Bringing these organizations together
allows us to continue our journey to more deeply embed DEI into the full talent lifecycle. Like
many organizations, our efforts in the DEI space have evolved over the years. In the early days,
we were focused on increasing the diversity of our workforce and driving a sense of inclusion
and belonging for groups that have historically been excluded from the financial services
industry. And while we’re still very much focused on those aspects of DEI, our efforts have
evolved and expanded to reach every part of the firm.
Accountability for our DEI efforts has expanded beyond our diversity and inclusion team.
Leaders from across the firm including our Board of Directors, our CEO and our Operating
Committee, are taking ownership and embedding this holistic focus, and we regularly see
examples of innovations coming from across our business units.
What makes DEI unique at Morgan Stanley? How is the firm's approach different from other companies, whether in the financial industry or other sectors?
More and more firms are looking at DEI holistically. And while we're unique in some ways,
we're also similar in a lot of ways, which I don't think that's a bad thing when trying to achieve
systemic change across business.
We have done two things that I’m particularly proud of: first, we've embedded DEI into our
culture by adding “Commit to Diversity and Inclusion” to our core values. We have several core
values centered around serving clients well and giving back, and while DEI was embedded in
our existing values we wanted to make our commitment to diversity and inclusion more
explicit. This addition has been, in my mind, a real game changer.
Another effort I'm very proud of is the Morgan Stanley Institute for Inclusion (IFI), which we
launched in 2021. The IFI helps to ensure that DEI is woven into the full ecosystem of Morgan
Stanley. Together with input from our external Advisory Board, which includes long-time
champion for the Latino community José Calderon, we are deepening our investments to create
a sustainable impact. This includes driving workforce diversity, supporting philanthropic efforts
that promote gender and racial equity, and investing to advance economic outcomes for
underserved communities through our products, services and business practices.
We're interested not just in your in your successes, but also some of the challenges you face. So what are some of the obstacles that you've confronted both internally and externally?
There are challenges in this work that you're constantly navigating. On the internal front, we're
a large firm with over 80,000 colleagues in more than 40 countries. And that means there is no
one size fits all approach. We need to deliver solutions at scale, while also allowing for the
nuance required with certain businesses or regions.
Externally, the landscape has been quite challenging, especially in the last few years as
everyone has felt the impact of societal and market events. We work hard to remain true to our
mission and our goals, despite the headwinds from a changing DEI landscape. We remain
committed to supporting our colleagues and all of the communities that we serve.
But you have opportunities as well as challenges. if you can identify one opportunity, what
would that be?
DEI work can at times feel very programmatic. You're designing programs, you're launching
programs, you're managing programs. Those efforts are important, but I've always considered
the most important work that we do is to shift how people think about others, see others,
engage with and support others, and how they manage others in the workplace. The human
landscape is very diverse. If you can encourage people to see the value in others because of
their differences, you can focus on this work from a place of humanity which is very powerful.
Please tell us about the Latino Employee Network at Morgan Stanley. What is its role, and
what are some of the things it does?
We have several employee networks at the firm that support many diverse communities across
the world. The Latino Employee Network is one of them, with close to 3,000 members. Leaders
of the Network have partnered with our diversity and inclusion team to design a mission that
aligns with the firm’s DEI priorities. In addition to ensuring that Latinos are strongly
represented, they are also focused on driving a sense of community, providing a voice on key
issues, and helping to develop and advance colleagues into leadership roles.
The network and its members are also focused on philanthropy and marketplace opportunities.
There's a lot of great information showing the growth of the Latino community, not just in
terms of numbers, but also business ownership and economic power. Our network is looking at
that and thinking about the ways that we can engage with the Latino community and support it.
I think they've done tremendous work, and I can't wait to see what they continue to deliver.
What does Morgan Stanley do to encourage mentorship and sponsorship?
We have a number of efforts focusing on mentorship and sponsorship, both at the divisional
and firmwide levels. Data shows us that not enough individuals of color, including Latinos, have
mentors and sponsors, and we are working to close that gap.
Research also shows that women and people of color tend to be over-mentored and under-
sponsored. Our employee networks play a key role in bringing people together to create
informal, organic connections that can lead to sponsorship.
Would you explain the difference between a mentor and a sponsor? What's the value of
Mentors are individuals whom you go to for advice. These are individuals you might seek out if
you're trying to understand how to get to the seat they're in. Mentors generally are there to
help you work through issues. They can serve as a sounding board.
But sponsors are the people who tend to be more senior to you, who have the ability to step in
and speak on your behalf in rooms where you are not in. Sponsors use their influence to help
propel your career forward. Mentors can often turn into sponsors, because a sponsor really has
to know you and believe in you.
You mentioned that Latinos and other individuals of color were “over-mentored and under-
sponsored.” What do you mean by that?
Many of us have colleagues that we can go to for guidance, but we tend to have fewer
relationships with senior people who use their influence to elevate us, advocate for us, and
help us get into bigger roles. And quite frankly, that’s why the DEI work is so important. We
need to close that gap.
What advice would you give a young immigrant today stepping into financial services? If they came to you asking for advice, what would you say?
Everybody comes from a different place and are raised with cultural norms based on our
backgrounds. Our upbringing plays a big role in how we show up in the workplace.
No matter what industry you’re in, you should be willing to show up and lean in. You have to
speak up when you're in the room and have a voice at the table. Depending on where you're
from, some of us are taught that you have to be quiet and revere senior leaders in order to
show respect, and we bring that with us to work. I grew up with a lot of those beliefs in
Jamaica. And I had to unlearn some of them to find my way in financial services. I had to find
my voice. I had to be comfortable challenging people. That's what we do.
I would advise a young immigrant to take a step back and examine those cultural norms, and to
think about how they might diverge from the financial services environment they are looking to
join. And if you find that there's a gap in what you've been taught and what you're seeing as the
norms, you might have to do some work. But it starts with self-awareness and getting support.
That's where mentors and sponsors are great.