A kind gesture helped change her life as did strong family support. Financial Advisor Sara Pitcel loves to help and this has molded her career.
“Will you sit with me at lunch?”
Being asked that question as a seventh grader on her first day at a new school made a huge difference in the life of Financial Advisor Sara Pitcel. Having been bullied at her old school to the point where her parents sent her to another school, Sara will never forget that small gesture by a classmate. “She did everything she could to help me feel included,” Sara fondly recalls of Nikki, who is still her best friend today. “From that point forward, my confidence just changed.”
Success as a student and an athlete soon followed. She went on to play volleyball and softball at the University of Wisconsin at Platteville, where she graduated with a business management degree. That’s where she met her husband Jon during her freshman year. Together, they’re now raising three competitive and athletic children whose activities keep them hustling. Sara gives back to her community as a volunteer girls youth volleyball coach.
She gives back in other ways too. Sara just completed her term as chair of the Morgan Stanley Great Lakes Regional FA Advisory Council and sits on the Morgan Stanley Consulting Group FA Advisory Board. She also makes time to coach new Financial Advisors. “If anyone across the country needs help with something, I’m not only going to give them an answer, but I’m going to make sure their issue is followed all the way through,” she explains. “It’s about making sure you leave someone in a better place than they were when they reached out to you.”
Such above-and-beyond effort and attitude have not gone unnoticed. Sara was named a MAKER, a program that identifies and celebrates trailblazing women. At Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, one of the program’s founding partners, candidates are nominated by peers and selected by a panel of senior managers. This recognition adds to Sara’s list of honors, including being named to Working Mother Magazine’s list of Top Wealth Adviser Moms in 2017 and 2018. “I’d love to think I didn’t do anything extraordinary—that it is the norm in society to put yourself out there to help others, to make someone’s day better, to do something, to have an impact on someone else,” she says.
While playing the Stocks and Bonds board game was amusing to Sara as a child, it was this love of helping people that molded her career. After college graduation, Sara was drawn to sales and took a job at a local manufacturing company. When the role turned into more factory-line work than sales, she decided to move on. She interviewed in 1999 with what was then Morgan Stanley Dean Witter for a Financial Advisor Associate position, and she’s been with the Firm ever since.
“The manager who hired me said, ‘I think you are going to fail, but I’m going to give you a shot,’” she recalls. “Being the competitor that I am, that’s all I needed to hear. I thought, ‘give me the opportunity so I can prove you wrong.’”
And so she did. Nearly 20 years later, Sara is thriving with The Riverwood Wealth Management Group at Morgan Stanley as a Family Wealth Director (FWD), a designation fewer than 2 percent of Financial Advisors held as of April 2018. “I chose to focus on in,” says Sara, who helps provide advanced planning solutions to high net worth families across the country.
Financial Advisors must be nominated for the FWD program. “It’s very intense and was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but it was so well worth the outcomes,” she says. “My role involves listening to families and talking about their goals, their wishes, their fears. Through education, we empower them to make great family decisions.”
It is no surprise family is a huge focus for Sara, who is quick to thank her parents: “Without their support, I would not be who I am today.” Her teacher mother—who had been told her only career choice was between a nurse or a teacher—always reminded Sara (and her brother and sister) that they could choose their own path. Her father, a businessman and educator, also helped her realize her potential. “He always pushed me to be my best, to do a little better,” she says.
Even through that difficult time in middle school, Sara sees a positive outcome. “Being bullied also helped shape who I am today,” she says. “It gave me strength and purpose. I now make sure everybody I interact with gets my undivided attention and my complete support. And more than anything, I want to make sure they always feel included.”
After all, she explains, it’s about paying forward what we’ve received along the way, in a world where “the smallest thing can make the biggest difference in someone’s day, someone’s life. It can be as simple as asking, ‘Will you have lunch with me today?’”
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