Alice Milligan says careers are marathons, not sprints

Morgan Stanley’s Alice Milligan acknowledges that “sometimes people lose sight of what the financial industry fundamentally does” and is quick to stress this point: “Whether it’s wealth management, investment management, from banking to issuing credit cards, it’s about helping people achieve their goals and dreams.”

In fact, what ultimately brought Alice back to financial services was how “this industry gives back to society”.

Prior to becoming Morgan Stanley’s Chief Marketing Officer in 2021, Alice was Chief Customer Officer at E*Trade, a brand that partnered with Morgan Stanley in 2020. Today, she is passionate about leading the Morgan Stanley brand. .

“A brand has to come to life,” she says. “We have the opportunity to shape what people think of our business. What I love about my job is thinking strategically and designing what our audiences see and feel and how they interact with the brand, and then measuring the results of our efforts.

Alice was young when she learned about money and how to be independent. The self-proclaimed “Jersey Girl” describes growing up in a dysfunctional family. Working since the age of 12, she made paper itineraries, worked in a pharmacy and was a camp counsellor. At 19, after planning what she “needed to survive” for the next few years, she left home with only her savings. “It was a monumental time in my life,” she recalls.

Working in a full-time administrative position at AT&T allowed him to skip his evening college studies, earning both his undergraduate degree in business with a concentration in marketing and his graduate degree in corporate communications. Those 12 years “have allowed me to identify what’s important and where to focus your time and effort, and what isn’t,” says Alice.

A key partner in those years was her husband David, whom she met in her early twenties. Together for three decades now, she is grateful for her partnership “for helping me get through this time, doing laundry and cooking dinner while I did my homework when I wasn’t working or at school. “. The tables turned when, after finishing college and working at American Express, David was diagnosed with cancer and needed a liver transplant.

On the waiting list for a liver transplant for some time, Alice turned down career opportunities to stay close to home, “knowing we could be called in for a transplant at any time”. With this experience, she realizes: “Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. A decision you make today does not change what your future will be tomorrow.

Despite the personal sacrifices, she says, “opportunities will present themselves and you can still achieve your goals.” After working in human resources, product management, sales and “a host of other areas,” something clicked when she landed in financial services marketing. Before that, she was always hard on herself because she was not “a number person”. Then she recognized that she brought “a different set of skills to the table,” says Alice. “A lot of people who were calculating numbers in their heads weren’t thinking about the customer’s needs or wants and solving them.”

The driving force behind this success is “having a long-term view, identifying the milestones you need to achieve, developing a strategy to achieve them, executing with excellence, and then sharing the results.” Looking back, she realizes that setting goals and milestones as a teenager and having the courage to take action to achieve those goals, like leaving home, laid the foundation for her future. “I’ve taken the same approach throughout my life and career,” she says.

This dynamic leader renowned for his big ideas that create memorable brand moments was recently named Morgan Stanley MAKER, joining a distinguished group of accomplished women and men, all nominated by their peers. She says, “MAKERS are magic. They are industry champions who have gone their own way to get there through hard work and a will to win.

For Alice, the MAKERS movement recognizes achievement and provides a platform to share stories, not only of successes, but also of obstacles overcome. She adds that her family challenges helped her grow as a leader after 9/11 while working at the World Trade Center complex and helped her team cope with stress and anxiety afterwards. . “It was the first time I realized that coming from a dysfunctional background makes you much stronger than you think, able to help others.”

Excited to continue giving back, Alice volunteers and raises funds for the American Cancer Society and Donate Life, among other organizations close to her heart following her husband’s liver transplant. She also mentors other women company-wide and reminds them to “speak up and ask for what you want.”

Alice, who loves fishing and boxing, a sport in which her great-grandfather and brother excelled, shares this advice: “The only limit in life is the one you give it. You can accomplish anything. It may not happen when or how you think it will happen, but if you are determined and stick with it and are true to your beliefs and values, it will happen.

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