Jessica remembers knowing as a Girl Scout growing up in Queens, NY, that she wanted a career in business or banking early on. “I was always the one who would run up to shoppers outside of the supermarket to sell them cookies; there was a certain satisfaction in counting the cash and reaching my goals,” she recalls. Jessica, whose father was born in Cuba, later majored in marketing and minored in economics at Marist College, where she became the first in her family to graduate college. Shortly thereafter, she sought a career that married the grown-up version of those same hard and soft skills she honed as a Girl Scout.
But it wasn’t until she joined Morgan Stanley that Jessica began to harness her early drive into fashioning a career in finance. She spent her first few years finding a role that felt like the best fit—with lots of help from the people around her. “My management team definitely supported my continued growth; after learning my first role, when a new opportunity popped up, I was encouraged to move forward.”
The work is always demanding, following the vagaries of the market and whatever issues her clients need her to help resolve, which occasionally means jumping on late evening calls to accommodate her clients’ global trading. But as a fan of the long-suffering Mets baseball team—she and her family often travel to watch the team’s spring training in Florida—Jessica has learned the value of patience, persistence and resolute optimism—all good traits to have in her current role supporting hedge fund clients within the firm’s Prime Brokerage business.
Tell me a little about your experience with the firm.
After completing the summer analyst program, I was offered a job—my first job out of college—and I’ve been here ever since, going on eight years. During that time, I’ve transitioned through a couple of different roles. I started in Operations under the Listed Derivatives umbrella, then moved to a client-facing role within Operations, where I managed a team. For the past two years, I've been in the Prime Brokerage business of the Institutional Equities division.
How did that come about?
While I was in Listed Derivatives, I worked with the Prime Brokerage team a lot and I loved the idea of a more client-facing role. So my first step was to get into a client-facing role within Operations and then, ultimately, to Prime Brokerage. I had very supportive managers throughout my career and was able to have open conversations with them about my career goals. In turn, they gave me the infrastructure to be able to grow, including taking my Series 7 and other exams that have allowed me to be where I am today in Prime Brokerage.
Describe your current role.
We support hedge fund and asset owner clients who look to us as an extension of their organization as their bank and custodian, but more importantly, as a resource to help them effectively run their business. The focus is mainly on equities, but our clients will trade a large variety of products globally, including listed derivatives, fixed income, and foreign exchange products. We help them with custody, financing, margin needs and other related services. As part of the Client Coverage group, we act as a single point of contact for any client requests, which are typically related to Prime Brokerage, but can also span the firm. We’re a large global team with a lot of expertise and experience. Part of our role is to create solutions for our hedge fund clients by leveraging the greater Prime Brokerage organization and the firm when they need advice on complex problems and questions.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten here?
I think it would probably be: “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” And what that means is, in order to progress and move forward and grow, you are going to have extend yourself a little beyond your comfort zone. Obviously, in a client-facing role, where you're picking up client calls all day, you may not have the answer to everything, which can be stressful. You have to be OK with telling people that even though you may not have the answer right away, it's something that you'll definitely get for them.
Describe a good day.
This is going to sound funny, but I always find that the days I get the most satisfaction from my job—when I feel most productive and good about myself—are the ones that have the most chaos. At the end of those days, I realize that I was able to withstand a lot and grow from the experience. And, of course, I love those days when I’m able to help a client have a positive outcome. Seeing them prosper really makes it all worthwhile.
And a more challenging one?
Days when there is market volatility, for sure. However, we're also in a relationship-driven role, so we need to be sensitive to what a client is going through. If clients are experiencing poor performance due to market conditions, that can make for some tough conversations. But whatever challenges the day brings, my mindset is always: How can I be most helpful?