Caroline Gundeck attributes her success to lifting other women up and finding ways to help them succeed.
The Morgan Stanley executive believes one way to do that is through building community in the workplace. And what’s better than joining a community? Starting your own.
For years, Gundeck was the energetic early riser at industry conferences, rallying a group of female financial advisors to take 5 am walks before their long days of meetings. Over the years, these walks fostered a tight-knit community of executive women that would prove to be both a professional and personal lifeline during Covid and would inspire Gundeck to lead a much larger professional community for her firm’s nearly 16,000 wealth advisors.
5 AM Walks Turned to Thursday Night Calls
In late March of 2020, Covid brought all in-person conferences to a halt.
“I reached out to this community of women and asked how they’re doing,” said Gundeck. She was surprised by the response. “Women wrote back how they were really feeling challenged by the lock down, so I looked at my calendar and set up a call so we could connect.” Gundeck invited 15 women and 10 joined the call.
These weekly calls started simply as a way to stay social during the lockdown. However, the calls naturally evolved to provide resources for the women to engage and to grow both personally and professionally.
“I said, I’ll bring you connectivity. I’ll bring you the strength of the firm. I’ll bring you something that will help you be better at what you do every day.”
Tens of participants turned into hundreds, and the weekly calls organically grew to include more than 500 women across the firm. Today, despite Morgan Stanley wealth advisors having returned to office, hundreds of women still join the Thursday night weekly call. It’s a sisterhood that Gundeck describes as a place for women to inspire and get to know each other while sharing best practices and business ideas.
Inspired by the impact and support of this community of women, Gundeck set her sights on a larger community – all of Morgan Stanley’s wealth advisors. She and her team took the company’s “Deliver the Firm” initiative, what had (pre-pandemic) been a recurring in-person event for Morgan Stanley’s advisors to showcase the firm’s strengths and thought leadership, and scaled it virtually to reach a nationwide following. Gundeck now leads the program, which creates community among the firm’s almost 16,000 financial advisors, both men and women.
“Covid was extremely hard on the workforce; technology facilitated the continuation of business, but what was missing was the human interaction, the in-person meeting, the cocktail party,” said Deborah Montaperto, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management. “Caroline was masterful at bringing the human element back to us in the darkest days of Covid. Her Delivering the Firm Zooms made a huge difference in helping us all feel a little bit more connected.”
Joining a community of like-minded women can offer the connection and support you need to get to the next chapter of your career. But you don’t need to wait around for someone else to invite you in. “Don’t be afraid to create your own network, and start it with people seeking a common goal,” Gundeck recommends. “You invite one person and have that person invite one person and it will grow from there, organically. You will build a support group that will be remarkable.”
Be an expert in your field.
Prior to leading the Delivering the Firm program for Morgan Stanley, Gundeck already had significant experience working with managers, advisors, clients and prospects. Thoroughly understanding the business was key to her success because this knowledge put her in a unique position to understand the needs of the advisors, and to deliver the firm in an understandable, engaging way.
Have a well-articulated business case.
Gundeck says identifying a need and then developing a workable, realistic solution to a challenge, or developing a solution that can help your company grow, increases the likelihood that your idea can lead to something bigger. For example, she felt there was an opportunity to provide a more consistent client experience at her firm by leveraging a new way of communicating in a virtual environment. Her virtual events now reach more advisors (both men and women), especially in remote locations, informing them of firm resources and inspiring them to stay connected with their clients.
Remember, your energy is infectious.
Gundeck has a big personality and presents the Morgan Stanley brand and women’s initiatives in a positive way. “If I’m positive,” said Gundeck, “you’ll be positive.” Her confidence conveys her conviction in what Morgan Stanley can deliver to their clients, and advisors listen.
Don’t be afraid of “no”.
“Remember, if well thought out, your recommendation could really benefit your clients, potential clients, senior leadership and the company, so muster up the courage and strength to propose it. The worst that can happen is they say, ‘great idea but no,’” said Gundeck. And don’t be afraid of the word “no”. Gundeck says “no” may mean you simply need to gather more data or rethink your business case. “You’re going to get a ‘yes’ at some point.”
“One path to success,” Gundeck says, “is to find a way to make other people better. Ask yourself, what can I do to help you continue your success, and how do we help each other get there?” The answer can oftentimes be found in community.
Jane Hanson, Bentley Lewis Advisor
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