Morgan Stanley, one of the world’s largest investment banks, has three business units: institutional securities, global wealth management, and investment management. In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, Gabrielle Alves, Michigan Ross MBA ’20, talks about how b-school helped her land a role there. Though Gabrielle very recently moved to Gap Inc., she talks about the Morgan Stanley recruiting process, what it took to transition from retail to investment banking and more.
Gabrielle Alves, Michigan Ross MBA ’20, Investment Banking Associate at Morgan Stanley
Hometown: Montclair, New Jersey
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Northwestern University, Economics
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: The University of Michigan Ross School of Business, 2020, Finance
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Six years in Retail Merchandising
Post-MBA Work Experience: One and half years in Investment Banking
Why did you choose to attend business school?
When I made the decision to attend business school, I was at a crossroads in my career. I had spent my entire career in the retail industry at various companies and built up a great deal of knowledge across merchandising, pricing and inventory management. I really enjoyed the operational skillset I had developed, but I knew I wanted to transition into a more strategic role that would allow me to have a larger impact. After speaking to some colleagues and friends, it was clear that business school would give me the tools necessary to make a major career pivot.
Why Ross? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
There were multiple factors that played into my decision. I knew I wanted to attend a program that was strong academically with a broad network to enable me to successfully enter the post-MBA career of my choice. The critical piece for me was the community at Ross. I knew that I would receive the support necessary to excel in a challenging environment. I still remember attending Go Blue Rendezvous (GBR) — Ross’s admitted students weekend. At the event, I got a strong sense of the Ross community, visited the Big House, and bonded with current students and future classmates. The most monumental part of the experience was the Consortium Capstone. I was moved by the stories of the Consortium members at Ross, and it was clear that this was a family and where I wanted to be.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
The core finance and accounting courses that I took in business school gave me a solid technical foundation going into a career in investment banking. I think Ross’s dedication to experiential learning was a game-changer for me. I was constantly working on different teams and projects across various courses. Given my prior work experience, I had never worked in client services before, and the Multidisciplinary Action Project (MAP) was a great opportunity to work together on a team to develop a recommendation to present to a client. Entering my internship and later my full-time role already with these experiences, I had the tools and confidence I needed to navigate the fast-paced world of investment banking.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
During business school, I interned at Morgan Stanley in the Investment Banking Division. When I came to business school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do post-MBA, but I knew I wanted to make a major career pivot. I wanted a role that was quantitatively challenging, strategic and would allow me to work with retailers. After speaking with career advisors and classmates I made the decision to recruit for an internship in investment banking. My internship experience was a whirlwind. I learned a ton and worked on live deals, such as IPOs, and helped clients defend against activist investors. It was a great experience, and I had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of people, which drove my decision to pursue a career in investment banking full-time.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
The people that I met during the recruiting process were extremely down-to-earth, and I could tell Morgan Stanley was a special place. I also could tell it was a place where I would be challenged and supported. I was also very interested in the associate pool program that is unique to the company. The pool program is a generalist program that allowed me to work across Consumer & Retail and Technology coverage groups ahead of final placement in the Consumer & Retail Group. Lastly, I knew that I would be able to gain exposure across various product groups (equity, debt and M&A) and advise the largest companies in their respective industries.
How has COVID-19 impacted your industry/career plans?
COVID-19 has totally transformed the industry. We were working remotely from all over the country which was not the norm prior to COVID. Client meetings were no longer in-person nor were investor meetings and presentations. As a result, we had to adapt quickly and learn how to execute and provide the same quality of service to clients remotely. It was a huge cultural change for everyone.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Stay organized! Going into the recruiting process I had a lot to learn and multiple deliverables to manage. I treated recruiting like another course and had a clear plan as to how I wanted to execute the process. This allowed me to stay on top of all the moving parts and be successful.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
I started the recruiting process a little late so I would encourage people to start earlier.
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
I was surprised by how structured the recruiting process was. It was something I was not used to from previous processes, but it was able to use to my advantage. It enabled me to map out the process and come up with a plan that suited my needs.
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
During business school, there is a lot of anxiety around recruiting, and it is important to remind yourself that it will all work out. Also, don’t forget to take advantage of all the developmental experiences and opportunities that are at your disposal.