Millie Guzman: Beyond the Balance Sheet into The New Frontier of Finance
Compliance is key in finance, especially in ensuring that one of the world’s largest wealth management firms operates with integrity and success. Millie Guzman, Head of Compliance Communications & Training at Morgan Stanley, champions this by overseeing crucial training programs for the Wealth Management division. In this role, she helps align business needs and strategic initiatives with regulatory requirements while promoting a diverse and inclusive culture. Drawing on her more than 30 years’ experience, especially within the Latino community, Millie combines leadership with active community involvement and empowerment. Recognized as one of ALPFA’s 50 Most Powerful Latinas, she also balances a rigorous career with a thriving personal life, making her well qualified to share advice to upcoming financial leaders on professional growth and work-life balance.
As the Head of Communications & Training for Wealth Management Compliance at Morgan Stanley, your influence is significant. Could you describe the important role of compliance to your Firm and the industry?
Compliance plays an important role in helping support the business needs and objectives of a Firm while adhering to regulatory requirements and expectations. This helps protect investors and the integrity of the markets. I have worked at Morgan Stanley since 2013. As the head of the Communications & Training team in Wealth Management Compliance, I lead a team responsible for creating training programs that bring awareness to our business partners on important and relevant content that enables them to bring the best of us to our clients. I’m super proud of my work in this space as compliance is integral to the business.
With your extensive experience in the financial sector, what trends or developments do you foresee for women – and Latina women in the coming years?
When I first started in this industry, it was very much a male-dominated environment. Progress has been made, and the industry has evolved to include more women. Today, there are more people who look like me. The evolution will continue, and as the Latino demographic and their economic impact continues to shape the US economy, we will begin to see more Latino representation in places of influences.
Your career in the industry spans 30 years. Can you share some key lessons learned that have helped shape and inform your leadership style.
I am a lifelong learner. As such, I’ve learned so many lessons on leadership throughout my career that I like to call “the intangible, tangibles,” which I believe can’t be taught in any upskilling class or learned by reading a book. Rather, they are skills that others have role-modeled for me, and I’ve seen first-hand how these skills transformed leaders from playing checkers to chess in motivating top teams. Let me share some examples.
I learned the importance of human interactions and connection. Years ago, on occasion, I’d buy lunch for my team, but one colleague would always take their food and eat alone, away from the rest of us. After observing the situation, I’ll never forget what a colleague in a leadership position said to me: “It is important that when invited to share a meal with colleagues that you sit together to enjoy the meal and exchange pleasantries. That exchange enables you to really get to know a person, build trust and understand what drives them. That exchange is how partnerships are formed and deals are closed.” The colleague eating alone was not only missing out on the opportunity to engage with us, but was sending a message, perhaps unintentionally, leaving things open for misinterpretation. The power of engaging with others in-person was such an important lesson for me—even more so during the pandemic.
Another valuable lesson I learned from a former manager was the importance of inspiring camaraderie and showing your team how much you care about them and how vested you are in their well-being. Between the 15 people she had working for her, somehow, she could keep track of all of our lives and remember names, birthdays and other milestones. When greeting us, she’d always ask about our parents, children or siblings or ask questions like, “How was Bobby’s baseball game?” Her personal interest in us, build our trust in her as a leader and served as a roadmap for establishing an” A-Team.”
Over the years, I’ve also learned the power in the awareness of knowing which version of you and what skills to leverage when entering into a meeting or stepping into a situation. This is an important lesson I learned earlier in my career that has translated into every one of my leadership roles. As a leader, it’s important to bring the best version of yourself into every room or discussion, as first and last impressions last longer than the interaction.
Finally, I’ve learned the power of “we” versus “me.” When people have “skin in the game” because you’ve engaged their emotions and you have gotten to know what motivates them, you’re going to get a different outcome than if someone is not vested.
In your role as a co-chair of Morgan Stanley’s Latino Employee Network (LEN), how have you championed diversity, equity and inclusion within the organization, and what have been the results?
One of the biggest privileges of my career has been helping advance our Latino talent while serving as the firm’s LEN co-chair. Doing so has given me the gift of seeing the evolution of our talent pool as well as the development of our next generation of leaders. We work to enhance the impact and profile of the Latino community through various programs, initiatives and professional-development opportunities. We’re focused on maximizing the Latino opportunity. By 2025, the Latino community is projected to become the minority-majority in the U.S. This growth has resulted in an incredible community of individuals who are committed to helping each other reach their goals.
Serving as a board member for organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of New Rochelle and the New Rochelle Campership Fund, what motivated you to engage in community involvement, and what accomplishments are you most proud of in your board roles?
I am passionate about sponsoring, mentoring and empowering others to realize their full potential. This includes youth, but I also mentor young professionals who are just starting in their careers as well as experienced professionals.
For eight years, I’ve been a board member of the Boys and Girls Club of New Rochelle. In my heart of hearts, I believe that if you invest in our youth and keep underserved communities engaged and busy, they will thrive and will be prepared to participate at every level of the economy. The Boys and Girls Club does just that, providing a safe place for kids to be themselves. If you create a nurturing environment that gives children a sense of belonging and community, you are investing in the next generation of leaders.
One of the proudest moments of my time with the Boys and Girls Club was during COVID-19. In 2020, my hometown was the epicenter of the pandemic. Our Club quickly pivoted from an afterschool program to being able to provide the community with free food and Wi-Fi so students could shift from in-person learning to remote education. So much was taken for granted regarding the role schools play, not just in students’ lives but in the families’ lives, and the Boys and Girls Club of New Rochelle stepped in to fill those gaps.
One of my focuses now is helping to raise funding for the Remington, a new state-of-the-art building to house the Boys and Girls Club. This will allow the Club to expand to offer more afterschool programs, such as health, STEM-focused, workforce training and college readiness programs, just to name a few, to meet the expanding needs of the community. I want my legacy to be the impact I’ve had on the well-being of others who remain committed to such causes.
You’ve been recognized as one of ALPFA’s 50 Most Powerful Latinas for two consecutive years. What does this honor mean to you, and how do you envision the continued advancement of Latinas in leadership roles?
It was an honor to be named a Most Powerful Latina 2021 and 2022 by ALPFA, Inc. two years in a row. This recognition has emboldened me to do even more for my community and bring the best of me to everything I do, continuing to help change the face of the finance industry and empowering the next generation of Latina leaders to reach their full potential. I would like to see more Latinos reach positions of influence in half the time it has taken me. Latinas bring so much of their heart into everything they do, from caring for their children and extended family to being entrepreneurs and making the financial decisions for their homes. When I meet a Latina, I’m always amazed by how many balls in the air they juggle and yet manage to bring an incredible work ethic and commitment to the workforce. I want to be that person who helps connect the dots for Latinas so that they can be well-represented in America.
Uncolonized Latinas featured your work in 2022. Can you tell us more about the book and your contributions to it, and how it relates to your journey as a leader in finance and diversity?
Uncolonized Latinas is an award-winning and groundbreaking book by author and speaker Valeria Aloe that unpacks the mindset and limiting beliefs that may be hindering the success of Latinas and other women of color to accelerate them into spaces of influence, leadership and wealth creation. What I share in the book are my observations about how we communicate in the workplace. Culturally Latinas are humble and while this may be valued, it can also hold us back. I’ve also seen the other opposite, where we miss the opportunity to land our message. It’s important to strike the balance of authenticity while adjusting our style to meet the moment – be confident and intentional. For example, I describe a practice in which I pause before entering a meeting to determine which Millie I will bring into the room, a lesson I mentioned earlier. Do I need to bring the person who closes the deal? Do I need to be a mediator in charge of helping people find common ground? I advise other Latinas to know which version of themselves they need to bring into the room. Different situations require different calls to action. You have to be able to adjust and pivot. As you adjust and pivot, keep observing how those you are trying to influence are reacting to your changes in delivery and determine if you need to make further refinements to achieve your desired outcome.
In addition to your professional achievements, you have a family and personal interests. How do you balance your demanding career with your personal life and hobbies like skiing, cooking, gardening, and reading?
Striking a balance is difficult. As a working mom, I’ve had my fair share of having to pivot to address a matter that requires my attention. It’s not easy, but you find ways to make up for the gap that you might be creating in either your work or personal life. One thing that I’ve never compromised is spending quality time with my daughter and my family. That might not always translate to quantity, but I give myself grace in accepting that I can’t be all things to all people all at once. In between all these demands, I carve time for self-care, to exercise, to read and to tend to my garden. I also enjoy skiing with my family, something that will always have a sweet spot in my heart – I met my husband skiing.
What advice would you give young professionals aspiring to leadership positions in the financial industry?
As the daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants from humble beginnings, I am all too familiar with the Latino culture of just putting our heads down and doing the work. That’s why I teach our youth, especially Latinos, early in their careers about “the power of your network” and “owning your voice and speaking up.” I see myself as a true champion and advocate for the Latino community, dedicated to uplifting others and to creating new pathways to their success. I have mentees whom I’ve mentored since they were high schoolers. I teach them all to be authentic, own the room and understand that they’ve earned a seat at the table. I remind them of the power of being bilingual and multicultural (having to think on your feet and translate). Latinos are lifelong translators. This is a superpower.