Hosted by top 5 banking and fintech influencer, Jim Marous, Banking Transformed highlights the challenges facing the banking industry. Featuring some of the top minds in business, this podcast explores how financial institutions can prepare for the future of banking.
An Inside Look into Morgan Stanley’s Evolving Brand Strategy
With a long history of leading marketing efforts at various financial organizations, Alice Milligan was named the chief marketing officer of Morgan Stanley in May 2021 in conjunction with the acquisition of E-Trade by Morgan Stanley.
With an evolving brand strategy to meet the needs of a more expansive, diverse consumer base, Milligan is tasked with communicating an expanding set of capabilities to these new audiences and modernizing the brand for future growth.
We are joined by Alice Milligan, the CMO of Morgan Stanley. Milligan discusses her career journey and the global brand strategy of Morgan Stanley. She also shares how data and analytics is the foundation for better marketing decisions.
This episode of Banking Transformed is sponsored by mParticle.
mParticle believes that better decisions start with better data. Cleanse, visualize, and connect your customer data from any source or system to any API. Better data, better decisions, better outcomes. Visit mparticle.com for more.
Jim Marous: Hello and welcome to Banking Transform, the top podcast in retail banking. I'm your house, Jim Marous, owner and CEO of The Digital Bank Report and co-publisher of The Financial Brand. With a long history of leading market efforts in various financial institutes, Alice Milligan was named the Chief Marketing Officer of Morgan Stanley in May of 2021 in conjunction with the acquisition of E-Trade by Morgan Stanley. With an evolving brand strategy to meet the needs of a more expansive and diverse consumer base, Milligan is tasked with the communication of an expanded set of capabilities to these new audiences and the modernization of a brand for future growth. As I said, we are very fortunate to be joined by Alice Milligan, the CMO of Morgan Stanley. Milligan will discuss her career journey and the global brand strategy of Morgan Stanley. She also shares how data analytics is playing a major role in the foundation of everything she does. So, welcome to the show, Alice. Before we start, could you provide our listeners a short background around your career and how you've ended up at Morgan Stanley?
Alice Milligan: Sure, and Jim, thanks so much for having me. It's exciting and a pleasure. I think first thing I'd say is that my career has been a marathon, not a sprint. I started way back in the day as an administrative assistant and then it took me over a decade to get my bachelor's and my master's by going to night classes while working full time. So, I did that. I got my master's in corporate communications from Seton Hall University and promoted through the ranks as I went to school. From there, at AT&T, which was my first company, I took on a number of different roles, everything from HR to marketing to product management and sales, just really trying to get a sense of longterm, what did I want to do and what I was passionate about.
Alice Milligan: Then as I finished my degree and got a sense of that, I went to American Express, where I spent 15 years. A lot of that was doing marketing and digital. I did a good amount around operations as well and technology capability development. So, that really put together the three core things, I think, that are really important in terms of what I do. Operation and understanding the interaction with clients, technology and understanding the capabilities that power a lot of the marketing and the digital and the experiences that we use, and then marketing and data and analytics, which I view as one key thing to understand targeting, segmentation, branding, customer relationship management, and a whole host of other things. After 15 years at Amex, I started saying what do I want to do next and how can I learn something new and different that I don't don't already know?
Alice Milligan: Because at 15 years at a company, you know how to navigate the organization. Even if you make a functional change, it's not a huge learning curve in terms of subject matter and other things. So, I decided to try retail. I went to Coach and I did that for about a year. I learned a ton about the industry, how they measure success, very different look and feel to how they think about digital and digital interactions, shopping cart technology, all of those things. Then ultimately, I realized financial services is really what I love to do. So, I went back to Citi, and at Citi, I was responsible for really setting up their whole customer or client experience discipline, everything from the data and analytics and how we measured success of the firm, launched the first digital scorecard that Mike Corbat at the time talked about with analysts during our earnings reports, and then set up the whole client experience structure, digital, digital marketing and media, and a whole host of other things, and I did that for about five years.
Alice Milligan: Then what I said is longterm, I'd love to sit on a board of directors for a publicly traded company. What are the things that you need to do that? You need a lot of board interaction, much more senior level engagement. So, I took the role as Chief Customer Experience Officer at E-Trade, which was officer of the company, regular board interaction. Not only did I have all the branding, marketing, digital, data that I had before, but I also had P&L responsibility for the retail products. Then about a year after I joined, we were acquired by Morgan Stanley and the CMO opportunity came up, which has been a fantastic opportunity for me, and here I am today.
Jim Marous: Okay. So, Alice, you and I kind of parallel a little bit in that. I started in branch management training program at a traditional big retail bank and evolved into being a marketing director of a couple different finance institutions and then ended up being in charge of marketing and sales for a digital and direct marketing firm. We talked about before we got on the line today that, God, the marketing role has just evolved so much and recently, so quickly. From your perspective, what has been the biggest change in the marketing function that you see that has happened, maybe it's just in the last two years, but over the time you've been in marketing roles?
Alice Milligan: You know what I would say? I would say it's made a transition from a very creative, I think, let's say feelgood type of role to a role that is a core business function. The reason I say that is because there's more and more pressure to really talk about the return on investment that you get in terms of the marketing that you do to quantify the impact of what you're doing to the organization and to the businesses you serve, whether that quantification is through qualitative means, like brand trackers and awareness and net promoter scores, or more data driven, revenue driven numbers in terms of performance marketing and other things.
Alice Milligan: So, I think back in the day, I would say it was a little bit more art and a little less science, and now it's a much stronger balance of art and science. For me as a leader, it's really important to think about the diversity of the team, not just from how that team looks and feels, but also what the people's expertise are the right level of creative types, the right level of scientists, and it's engineers who can help think through the experience and the data and insights and then the real professional marketers who understand targeting, segmentation, media and all the technology that goes with it.
Jim Marous: So, it's interesting. Since you became the CMO of Morgan Stanley, Morgan Stanley has been a constant state of change. In fact, they've acquired some companies and are really expanding who they're trying to focus on. So, where has your focus been since becoming CMO as far as how to integrate these new brands, but also what your role overall has changed as?
Alice Milligan: Yeah. I would say, Jim, what I did is the first 90 days, I just listened. I went out to the organization and I spoke to all the key stakeholders that the team worked with and that have a say in the marketing or the strategy of the company because I think the first thing is your marketing and brand strategy needs to align with your corporate strategy and what your business strategy is. So, getting a sense of that, getting a sense of what the key pillars were, and then thinking through the marketing opportunity. What we saw in that, or what I saw in that case was one, there was big opportunity to think about our brand and our go to market strategy, and that's because as you mentioned, Morgan Stanley has been historically a one brand company, yet now, through trying to acquire firms that enable us to grow, whether as through E-Trade, who has a different audience, different technology and capabilities and different strategy, to Eaton Vance and, even a few years ago, Solium for our at work business.
Alice Milligan: They're very different brands, audiences and capabilities. So, the first was how do you elevate the Morgan Stanley brand to really reflect the house of brands that we now own? The second was how do you start to evolve marketing, very much to what I said earlier, in terms of data and analytics, quantifying the impact, understanding these very different segments? You go from a very broad based marketing strategy to a very targeted strategy based on these segments, and how do you ensure that you're offering the right product and right service at the right time to the right people? I was going to say the other area was digital experience because again, that's really where a lot of ... I always say it's often the time where your marketing and your brand and your strategy comes to life because it's really one of the true places of interaction with clients outside of human interaction, and then people. How do we get the right marketing talent with the right experience and how do we leverage and upscale existing marketers in the organization? Those are really the areas that I've been focused on.
Jim Marous: Man, you've opened up a whole bailiwick of things that we need to talk about. So, at Morgan Stanley, what does your role entail? What areas are you in charge of at Morgan Stanley besides the brand overall?
Alice Milligan: Okay. So, with my taking on the role, we centralized marketing within the firm in some ways. So, I have the firm-wide responsibilities, the overall Morgan Stanley brand, all of the governance around that brand, our visual identity, our brand hierarchy. So, how we think about all of these sub-brands that we now have, whether it's E-Trade or Eaton Vance, and how they relate to the master brand. I've got all of sponsorships and events and our brand ambassador strategy, all of our digital properties, and then data and analytics at the marketing level for the firm are the key areas of responsibility. Then what we did is there's a CMO, Andrea Zaretsky, over our wealth management and E-Trade business, and a CMO over our asset management business. They dotted line into me as the central org and then they straight line into the business unit. So, I have oversight for pretty much all the marketing and creative production that we do at the firm.
Jim Marous: So, obviously, all the staff analytics plays into that, and Morgan Stanley has traditionally been a recognized brand in the marketplace. It's been an upscale brand, a brand that people recognize. You could go to anybody and say, "Have you ever heard of Morgan Stanley?" They're going to go, "Yes." That said, many of the changes at your firm have been in a way that have really had to change the legacy perceptions. I'm not going to say you're going downmarket, but you're certainly becoming more of a retail brand in the financial services area, not just serving a very narrow top segment of the marketplace. So, how do you retain some of these very strong past trust perceptions while still becoming relevant to a younger and more diverse audience?
Alice Milligan: Yep. I think what you say, Jim, is it's completely true, and I think what's important is Morgan Stanley's brand metrics, and quite frankly, the brand metrics, because we measure them at E-Trade and Eaton Vance, are all really strong. Great reputations for integrity, client service, and Morgan Stanley in particular has an 87+ year history of being a respected institution in the financial services age or industry. So, it's really important to protect that. I think what we've been doing in terms of the brand strategy is thinking that through. So, when I came on board, as I mentioned, one of the things that as a firm we feel is really important is talking to our employees and our clients. We have a very unique culture. People love working at the firm and really feel a sense of ownership and we have really great loyal clients.
Alice Milligan: So, through either one-on-one interviews or through qualitative research or through quantitative research, we spoke over 10,000 employees and clients just to get a sense of what they valued in the firm, what was important, what isn't important, and how do we think about that go to market strategy? The other thing we did is we spoke to a lot of the E-Trade and Eaton Vance clients and prospects also to see what those differences were. So, I think a lot of it, which we mentioned, is one, that overarching brand and making sure that it's relevant and compelling. You're balancing that great history with a bit more modernization and appealing to younger audiences. So, for example, when we launched the Players Championship, the PGA Championship this year, we launched a new ad campaign called Everyone Deserves a Shot. We featured young or youth in the commercials. We had Cheyenne and Justin, Justin Rose and Cheyenne woods, who are brand ambassadors, just talk a little bit about education, coaching, mentoring.
Alice Milligan: The things that are important to groom the next generation of golfers is very similar to what we think about in terms of financial services, giving everyone access to the right tools, the right education, the right products and services at the right time in their life. It's a very synergistic type of path that people take. We also looked at new brand ambassadors. So, we recently brought on Leylah Fernandez, who is a 19 year old tennis phenom of Ecuadorian and Filipino background. She's someone who's coached by her dad, who has a really gritty, determined spirit, great social following, and again, appeals to a wider audience, but still appeals to our traditional clients. So, I think it's really about that balance and selecting the right marketing strategies that are going to work, and then we have a whole performance marketing strategy where there's a lot of below the line communications that are really targeted at the right segments with the right product set. So, an E-Trade customer may see something very different than a Morgan Stanley financially advised client, but it's really all going to be relevant and at the right stage in their life.
Jim Marous: So, it's interesting because I would not say that the majority of the E-Trade customers would think they would be a Morgan Stanley customer just out of the box without some convincing that, oh, we're serving both markets. How do you get that message out? Because obviously, E-Trade customers probably have different appeals as far as what they want, what they do, how they interact, what they expect from their brand. How have you worked to integrate those brands in such a way that not only does the Morgan Stanley customer realize, oh, we're not downgrading your relationship, but how does the E-Trade customer realized we're still holding on to what you came to us for? But how do you then build the E-Trade market with the combination of Morgan Stanley?
Alice Milligan: Yeah. So, that's a great point, Jim, and that's something we spent a ton of time on. So, first and foremost, James Gorman who's our CEO, had a really clear strategic vision and executed on that vision with precision. Brought in over 5.2 million client accounts with the E-Trade acquisition and really expanded the company's pipeline of new relationships. What we did then is as we became part of the firm, we spent a good amount of time just doing research. So, we looked at brand tracker metrics for Morgan Stanley, brand tracker metrics for E-Trade, and saw what E-Trade's feelings were about the firm. In all honesty, where we came out was a lot of people at E-Trade, a lot of the clients and prospects just didn't know about Morgan Stanley because they played in a different field.
Alice Milligan: So, what we figured out quite quickly was that we needed to undertake what we called a warming strategy. So, we spent the first year really just warming E-Trade clients to the Morgan Stanley brand. We did a series of marketing communications every month, as well as we started slowly integrating E-Trade customers into our targeting in social media and some of our external work, our overall digital media, etc., and then these very specific communications. The whole message was you still are going to get the same great pricing, the same great technology and capabilities and flexibilities you get from E-Trade. But now, as a member of the Morgan Stanley family, you also get access to our intellectual capital, research, all of these other things.
Alice Milligan: We slowly started introducing those to clients, showing them that they were getting incremental value and real equity for no additional cost just by being under the Morgan Stanley umbrella. We did that for a year and then we did that same measurement in terms of brand awareness, brand familiarity, and positive sentiment. The end of that warming strategy year, we saw significant increases in awareness and positive sentiment for Morgan Stanley, and that's where at the Super Bowl, we introduced the new E-Trade logo, which is E-Trade from Morgan Stanley, to the 208 million viewers of the Super Bowl when we reintroduce the baby at the Super Bowl.
Jim Marous: Wow. It's interesting because it makes all the sense in the world when you're taking on such a large customer base at Morgan Stanley to bring you along because there's a major pivot as far as Morgan Stanley's strategy when you look at this and you need to not forget about these millions of customers you've just taken on. At the same time, you're probably looking at new channels and even new products now that are going to serve the combined universes of Morgan Stanley and E-Trade in the most efficient way. So, when you look at channels, what now has become more important as far as the channel strategy than it was before? You were not at the legacy Morgan Stanley, but obviously, you've had to deal with that. What have you had to bring along from the E-Trade side or blended channel strategies with regard to how you work with the new much larger customer base?
Alice Milligan: Yeah. I think the combination of the broader audience, as well as, in all honesty, Jim, just the changes that we've seen in terms of channel usage through the pandemic. I think there's pros and cons in every situation. One of the things I think that was a pro of the pandemic was the fact that the acceleration of digital acceptance and usage really moved to the forefront. So, what we've seen in terms of serving up content to our clients across the board is increasing usage of things like digital voice assistance. We did a recent study where we found 22% of respondents increased their use of digital voice assistance during the pandemic and more than 40% listened to flash briefings, podcasts four or more times a week.
Alice Milligan: What's interesting, Jim, because I think everybody goes right to, okay, it's millennials, digital natives, etc., 17% of boomers and 10% of millennials are listening to 11 or more podcasts and briefings a week. So, we've really increased our content there. We've done everything from our Thoughts on the Market podcast, which is like a real quick three to six minute, here's what to think about today in terms of the market, to award winning podcasts we have like Access and Opportunity, which is longer, goes deeper, but broadens the subjects across a diverse group of potential clients and prospects, as well as existing clients. The other thing-
Jim Marous: It's in- ... Yeah. Go ahead. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt. Go ahead.
Alice Milligan: No, go ahead.
Jim Marous: Well, it's interesting because you're talking about podcasts and interestingly, Spotify has reached out to me and we're working together on building better recognition for financial institutions as far as not only creating content, but sponsoring content, and you're right. People are consuming differently, and our channels sometimes, we don't think about some of these new content strategies beyond the traditional email and SMS text and SEO and all these other things, and it continues to evolve, and especially for a firm like Morgan Stanley, which has now expanded the market into a much more retail focus, and I'm going to call it downmarket and that's not fair.
Jim Marous: But it's certainly a much more retail oriented focus than it was before, and how important now is building engagement? You're kind of edging on this in the previous discussion, but more than just a great experience, great brand values and all that, how important is it to build engagement and taking it a step further? Is there a future where Morgan Stanley's looking at almost a platformification of services where you're going to have an overarching brand, but there's going to be a number of different elements that could come into it in the overall Morgan Stanley platform?
Alice Milligan: Yeah, and I think, Jim, I'll jump on one thing, and I know you prefaced it, but we definitely don't look at it as downmarket. I think the way we think about it is Morgan Stanley now has the intellectual capital, the technology, the products and services, and the innovation that appeal to a broader audience at every life stage. Thinking about, as I talked about my background, when I was an administrative assistant, I had a very different view of wealth financials, etc., than I do now.
Alice Milligan: So, I think part of our strategy is really saying how do you become part of someone's life and help take them from the beginning? I hate to say cradle to grave, but from the beginning to the end, and whether that's building wealth so that you can do the things you want to do in your life to planning estate planning so that you can ensure the next generation can do what they want to do in their life. So, I think that's really important to frame how we think about it. I think the other piece has really been us looking at what's truly important to those clients then and making sure that we're messaging that in the right way at the right time, and that gets back to customization and personalization and knowing your audiences.
Jim Marous: Yeah. It's interesting because, and thank you for correcting me on the downmarket thing. I'm going to reframe it and say you've gotten into a much more transactional customer with E-Trade and at the same time, the elite brand of Morgan Stanley stays in place and is blending those two thought processes and the way you reach out to the customer. So, we're going to take a short break here and recognize the sponsor of this podcast.
Jim Marous: So, welcome back. I'm joined today by Alice Milligan, CMO of Morgan Stanley. Alice and I have been discussing the role of marketing at Morgan Stanley and the evolution of the Morgan Stanley brand. So, before the break, we touched on a little bit around content strategy because a lot of what has to go with a financial institution now is, as we mentioned, the engagement, and you mentioned that you're using podcasts, both from a creation standpoint, there's also a sponsorship perspective, I believe you said, and using these as new ways to connect with customers at their point of engagement. How important is it today to build a stronger engagement strategy that may include podcasts, may include written content on the website, reaching out to customers at the right point to make it so that you can impact their lives, and as you mentioned earlier, from cradle to grave?
Alice Milligan: Yeah. So, I think, Jim, it's critically important, and if you think about the audiences that Morgan Stanley serves, we serve institutions. Right? We serve asset managers, we serve direct clients. So, it's a really broad audience. These groups consume information in different ways. If you're are an asset manager, for example, managing a hedge fund, for example, you're going to want much more detail and volume of content on a particular subject than if I'm an individual investor. So, the first thing is really thinking about the content not just as a one size fits all, here's an equity research report of 900 pages that you can go through, but giving the people who want the 900 pages the 900 pages and then breaking that up into podcasts, digestible sound bites, short form articles, etc., so that you're giving it to all the audiences in the right way.
Alice Milligan: The other thing we've really been thinking a lot about is access, right? Because one of the things Morgan Stanley brings to the table is because of the firm that we are, access to information and things other people don't have access to. So, we just partnered with the Washington Post on this series that they're doing called Eon 0101, which is all about sharing information about what's happening in the marketplace, the gas prices, information that's realtime that people are really hungry for. Typically. That content is for subscription readers only. We've worked with them to bring that before or in front of the paywall so that all readers can read that content, and they've seen tremendous engagement in that. So, I think part of what our strategy is to appeal to broader audiences, whether they be self-directed investors, high net worth individuals, or diverse investors, giving them access to information through our content vehicles and through our partnerships.
Jim Marous: It's interesting because it's so much different than the golf sponsorship, is the diversification of information you have, and we're going to get back to this, but the whole data analytics perspective of being able to personalize this on an individual basis because every one of your investors and clients are different. You didn't have the tools at the beginning of your career in marketing to really bring personalization at scale, but you're an information company, and that's what's interesting about Morgan Stanley. I know them as much by their elite status as an investment firm, but also, massive amounts of content and information that your team creates, and now, as you just mentioned, the ability to then personalize it down to the individual customer level to make it interesting for them and in, as you said, bite sized pieces.
Jim Marous: So, I'm going to take a big pivot here, and one of the challenges in the marketplace right now on every industry, but specifically for financial services, is talent. Everybody's looking for people that can fill the roles that have totally evolved in the last three to five years as the marketplace has evolved. Everything from data analytics people to data transformation people to people that build brands and the people that can market on the SEO marketplace. How does your organization acquire the talent you need to be the next best content provider and financial services provider?
Alice Milligan: Yep. So, I would say couple things, and when I took the role, that was one of the areas I was really focused on, Jim. I think what I would love to see in the next three to five years is for Morgan Stanley to be the employer of choice for the next generation of marketers. If that could be my ultimate vision, it would be. So, there's a multi-prong approach we're taking to that. First was an internal approach. So, doing some centralization of the marketing and starting to build an internal community of marketers. We have created a number of internal ways we do that. One is we created a marketing mobility site, which enables all of the marketers across the firm to see opportunities that are open, different job openings in different teams at different levels, so that they can start to plan their career and have access.
Alice Milligan: In a company with 60,000 employees, sometimes you don't always know what jobs are open if you're sitting in London and there's a job in New York, or if you're sitting on the E-Trade side and there's an opening on the Morgan Stanley marketing side. So, I think there's a bunch of different things we've done around mobility and just making sure people know what's happening. Then we created, because we want to start to build our pipeline, we created a very marketing specific summer intern and analyst program where it's part of the broader Morgan Stanley analyst program, but also focused specifically on marketing schools and marketing subject matter and placing folks in marketing assignments. We launched that this year and our interns are now on board. In the inaugural year, we had over 1,500 applications for four slots. Yeah. So, it was really competitive. So, that's been really exciting.
Alice Milligan: Then the third internal area of focus has been we created what we call Marketing Matters, which has been a curriculum of just education to upskill people in the company. We're bringing people in who are in startups or different areas talking about the metaverse. We're talking about the changes to technology as cookies move out of media and other technology moves in, how do we start to think about that as marketers? So, really trying to help advance skills.
Alice Milligan: Then in terms of prospective employees, and Morgan Stanley's a global company, and so we're recruiting around the world, we take different approaches in different markets. But a lot of it is around the brand. Right? People want to work for a company they love and that they believe in. If I look at my own career, AT&T, American Express, Coach, Citi, E-Trade, Morgan Stanley, all amazing brands, and that was part of my decision. I want to work for a great marketing brand that is consistent with my values as an individual or a person. So, we've been working on the brand and just making sure we're communicating and showing what our core values are when we're in the marketplace because that in itself attracts the right folks also.
Jim Marous: Okay. So, I'm going to put myself in the role of a college graduate or a college intern and I really love the fact that I'm going to have Morgan Stanley on my resume, on my LinkedIn profile. Okay. You've acquired this person and let's say they stay with you for the first year, but they gain so much knowledge and they still have that Morgan Stanley brand on their resume. How do you retain them in a marketplace that is, we're all stealing from each other? I've had so many conversations with organizations that say, "We get somebody for maybe one, at the most, two years, and then they use us as the springboard to that next best thing. Maybe it's a fintech firm." Mind you, in the last few weeks, maybe that's not as appealing as it was four or five weeks ago. But still, doing that certainly in a marketplace, you're in very, very, very competitive marketplace for talent. How do you keep them?
Alice Milligan: Okay. You mean besides working for amazing leadership like myself? No, just kidding. I would say there's a bunch of different things we're doing on all fronts. First of all, one thing being newer to the firm, Morgan Stanley has an amazing culture and you can feel that and you experience that as a new employee. So, I think the folks who have started with us through the internship program or just through the new hire program and then work at the firm, it's very collegial. It's very collaborative. I can't tell you how much time people spent with me. Just a quick email like, "Hey, do you have time for a meet and greet?" and turned into a very strong relationship. So, I think the culture itself, which continues to evolve as we bring on talent and as we bring on leadership is one that really retains employees.
Alice Milligan: The second is Mandell Crawley, who's our CHRO, head of human resources, just launched a whole new strategy around the employee experience called My Experience where we have new benefits, life management tools. People don't just look at compensation anymore, although that's a critical piece, and we're always competitive there, but there's so much that we're doing in terms of employee benefits and work-life integration, balance, however you want to refer to it now, and we're branding that in the right way internally so people know about it and can take advantage of it. We're doing or undertaking a project called Reimagine where we're reimagining the workspace. So, we're redesigning globally our main offices to be flexible, enable or have more collaborative space so it feels good to be in the office, and it's really conducive to work engagement and building relationships because it's a very relationship driven company.
Alice Milligan: Then I think there's just a lot of flexibility in terms of growth and career path. As I mentioned, I started out in HR and I did product management and sales and then ultimately found my love of marketing. Morgan Stanley encourages that same thing, and what we've seen with millennials and new entrants into the marketplace, career is not always defined these days by hierarchical movement up. Right? I'm this and then I'm that and now I'm an MD. It's about the learning and the growth and the expansion of my skills. So, we have a number of programs that enable people to really take advantage of building their skills and expertise in new and different ways. You don't have to leave to get a new experience. We've got the new experience internally and I think we try to make sure people see and feel that and we take their input to evolve it.
Jim Marous: It's interesting. Everything you just said is so resonating with me because I think we sometimes forget that we can no longer hire and just let it go and think it's going to take us normal course. The reality is the more time you spend training, preparing, working on the life side, as well as the business side of a person's career, the more likely it is you're going to retain them because while the grass may look greener on the other side from a compensation standpoint, you make it so that the employees to continually think through, but I may lose all these other elements that I'm tied to. They're not handcuffs by any means. What you're trying to do is say, "We're going to be the best employer you can have of choice," and see where the chips fly. So, I'm going to, again, shift gears quite a bit.
Jim Marous: Your career path is very interesting. It started at a very elementary, well, say, elementary, meaning entry level, position. Mine started as a teller. So, I know that very well. But you continually evolved. But what's different with you and different with many of our guests is that you're a woman and you have different challenges than I did going up through the ranks. You had to blaze your own trails and you had to work in an environment that's traditionally male dominated. There's no surprise there, and it still is. How did you work in such a way that you've had so much success to date moving up the ranks and what suggestions do you give to other females that say, "Geez, I feel like I'm always hitting these walls"? Are there any secrets to your success or more importantly, what suggestions could you give to others to say, "Here's how you can make an impact in organizations that are not traditionally and have some undercurrents of male domination"?
Alice Milligan: Yep. So, I like to say similar to the Drake song, I really started from the bottom, Jim. But you know what? I think that's important in terms of a number of ways. One is it's been very helpful for me along or throughout my career because when you move through the organization in that way, you actually learn a lot about how things get done, what makes things happen, how long things take, what's truly involved in terms of the systems and the infrastructure and the people and the policies. So, as a leader, when you're starting to set strategies and directions and timeframes and expectations with the board of directors and the CEO, you're not setting unrealistic things because you actually know what it takes. So, that's been important. Knowing what it takes also helps you ask the right questions.
Alice Milligan: So, there's a point in time in your career where you're not as much doing as you're leading and setting a vision and empowering people to do the work. So, knowing how it gets done enables you to ask them the right questions that challenge their thinking in the right ways to make sure that they're being comprehensive and that they're thinking through all contingencies, but you've got that knowledge and background. I think what I've learned, and I probably learned this the hard way because I spent a lot of time doing this early in my career, is focus less on being the same and assimilating and focus more on what makes you different. As a good leader, I don't want people who are just yes people and who are the same as me, right? The reason I put people around the table is because I'm hoping they each bring a different perspective and raise a different issue or concern or thought that is different than the other.
Alice Milligan: I spent a lot of time saying, "How do I get better at this and how do I do this and how can I be like this person?" instead of saying, "You know what? Here's what I bring to the table. I don't see anyone else bringing it. So, I'm going to show up in that way," and when I did that, that's when my career took off. So, I would say the first pointer is focus on what makes you different and bring that to work every day. Your uniqueness is a game changer. I think the other thing is just having grit and determination and being willing to dust yourself off. There's been plenty of times where I'll make a suggestion or raise an idea and someone else will repeat it and they will get recognition for that thing.
Alice Milligan: There's been times, I remember at one time in one of my employers I was with, the [inaudible 00:43:27], and someone did that and I was like, "Didn't I just say that?" in a funny way, bringing humor to the situation, but calling people out for maybe behavior hat doesn't embrace diversity because I think we all come to work to try and create a great work environment. I'm not sure everybody always understands or has empathy for how it may feel to be that lone woman in the room or lone African American in the room or a Latino. So, I think it's really important for us to, as leaders, try and make sure we're reaching out to different groups and hearing from different perspectives. But as individuals, recognizing that it's also on us to speak up a little bit on our own behalf, and there's ways to do that and navigate the organization in the right way.
Jim Marous: What is interesting now from what you said is I've talked to a number of women in our podcast and there's some common theme in what they say about their career, and one is, and I think I view it as a gender difference, is that the ability to listen with empathy and to continually use that to build your knowledge base. So, listening skills. Secondly, that you don't have to be the broadcaster saying, "I'm great," which we get challenged on in the financial man form and things that we do and finding the really special women in the marketplace that are doing amazing things. But we don't see them because most of these people don't do the broadcasting on social media, the way many of my male friends do. Thirdly, and I think it's so interesting that you said this, and I never viewed it this way, but when you looked at grit and determination, it wasn't grit and determination to blow through doors. You said to dust yourself off.
Jim Marous: So, it's grit and determination within yourself to say, "I'm not going to let these setbacks set me back and I'm going to continue to learn to make it so that I've earned that place in the room, maybe beyond others." But the grit determination is internal. Back in the day, way back, a lot of women tried to blow through the doors, tried to prove that they're the strongest, try and prove that they're they're in power as opposed to using that internally to say, "I'm going to make myself stronger." Another thing that's very clear from your career path is that you do embrace change, you have taken risks, and you're willing to disrupt yourself, and for me, it's a very, very, very major trait in people that are successful is that you're not staying where you were.
Jim Marous: Even your change from E-Trade to Morgan Stanley, while you still have to probably spend more than 50% of your time integrating the E-Trade brand within Morgan Stanley, the reality is you've had to change quite a bit and you had to do that during COVID. So, I'm patting you on the back, but at the same time saying there's a common thread here we have to think about. So, finally, Alice, my last question is really around, from the financial services marketplace, not from the gender discussion, but from the financial services marketplace, what do you see as the biggest opportunity for Morgan Stanley, as well as the industry as a whole, going forward? What is really good about what's coming up in the future as opposed to what's bad?
Alice Milligan: I think there's probably two major things. There's probably a million things. But the two I would cite is one, what we talked about earlier, which is really the opportunity to take an 87+ year legacy and really bring that to life for a broader set and new set and next generation set of consumer, which I think is exciting and so worth the doing because of the value that the firm could bring to the next generation. Then quite frankly, talent is everything. So, again, ensuring that we attract and retain top talent, a diverse set of top talent because especially financial services, as you know, traditionally diversity is an issue, whether it's gender diversity, racial diversity, etc.
Alice Milligan: So, I think really being focused and open to that and helping not only recruit, attract, but to retain that talent, you have to provide the right sponsorship, the right coaching and mentoring and everything else because through my career, a lot of the coaching and mentoring you get is by seeing people like you in senior positions and them paying it forward. When there's not a lot of people like you in senior positions, it's really hard for the handful of people to pay it forward to all of the people coming up through the ranks. So, how do we start to really embrace that difference and a broader set of leaders really start mentoring and coaching and guiding and helping people throughout their career? I think that's really important.
Jim Marous: Alice, thank you so much for being on the show today. You brought a lot of insight to the marketplace. Congratulations on your continued career. What's exciting is, and it's a different feeling because sometimes, we visit with people that are big fish in smaller ponds, and that's not a negative comment, but-
Alice Milligan: You calling me a little fish now?
Jim Marous: You're kind of a little fish in a big pond, but that's just as exciting because you've gone from very focused and very defined roles to now one that you're really building for yourself. It's kind like getting into a new pond going, "Wow, there is so much here," and I can tell just by the interaction the excitement you have for the new role. You're bringing new thought processes to people that ... We talk a lot about legacy bankers or legacy financial services institutions and man, there's not much more legacy than Morgan Stanley and you're bringing talent as well as a brand new company to the mix that it's going to be interesting to see what happens to Morgan Stanley in the next one, two, and three years because the move to E-Trade is a very major move that isn't a one act play.
Jim Marous: There's, there's more to be said here and we didn't get into it mainly because I think that a lot of it probably is still undefined within the organization. But we're seeing counterparts to your organization doing a lot of these things as well, saying, "We have got to get to the more mass, more diverse, more inclusive or organization from a customer standpoint." So, thanks again, Alice. I appreciate you being on the show today.
Alice Milligan: Jim, thanks so much for having me and you keep your eye on us because you're going to see some great things.
Jim Marous: Thanks for listening to Banking Transform, the recipient of three international awards for podcast excellence. If you enjoy what we're doing, please be sure to give a positive review on your favorite podcast app. Be sure to catch my recent articles on The Financial Brand and the research we're doing for The Digital Bank Report. This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to my producer, Leah Longbrake, audio engineer, Sean Rule-Hoffman, and video producer, Will Ritz. I'm your host, Jim Marous. Until next time, make every day a learning experience.