Most Powerful Women in Finance: Shelley O'Connor, Morgan Stanley

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Chairman and CEO, Morgan Stanley Private Bank and Morgan Stanley Bank

Until recently, Morgan Stanley Bank, serving institutional clients, and Morgan Stanley Private Bank, serving wealth management clients, were run as two separate businesses — with independent boards, management teams and support partners.

When Shelley O'Connor was asked to lead both last year, she immediately tried to understand how the two entities could be better aligned and then took decisive action. By creating a single board of directors to govern both and a single executive team to oversee strategy operations and risk, she successfully broke down those barriers that were impeding agility and synergy.

These changes yielded measurable improvements in governance and interbank communication, and resulted in greater efficiency of day-to-day business activities for individual and franchise clients. They also helped Morgan Stanley reach record loan production and loan balances in 2020, with a top ranking among wealth management firms in securities-based lending balances.

O'Connor is a longtime champion of improving diversity in the financial industry and she has been particularly active in her call for action over the last year.

She is a board member at Catalyst, a nonprofit focused on the advancement of women in the workplace. In a speech to the group's member companies this year she called on senior executives to take diversity and inclusion efforts "to the next level."

"Accelerate your numbers of women in executive leadership. Make sure the workplace allows women to thrive. Keep a laser focus on inclusive leadership and engage more men as advocates, sponsors and partners," she said, giving her company a shout-out. "Morgan Stanley understands the incredible impact of productivity, innovation and hiring top talent that results when we include women and diverse employees in the conversation and at the table."

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Private banks Morgan Stanley Wealth management Women in Banking