A Story of Perseverance, Focus, and Success: Ileana Musa
Story By: Raymond J. Arroyo
We’re pleased to feature another outstanding Latina leader in our column: Ileana Musa, a newly hired managing director at Morgan Stanley in a recently created role of head of International Banking and Lending in International Wealth Management. Morgan Stanley is significantly increasing its focus in the international wealth management business and recruited Ileana to lead their efforts. Ileana, one of ALPFA’s 50 Most Powerful Latinas, published by Fortune Magazine, is up to the challenge as she has significant experience in international markets in the wealth management and investment management businesses and has spent a substantial amount of time working directly with financial advisors.
Ileana, originally from Cuba -- the birthplace of music genres like the Bolero, Mambo, and Cha Cha Chá -- was raised in Miami, graduated from the University of Miami School of Business Summa Cum Laude and has a strong multicultural upbringing. She has successfully negotiated deals all over the world and is proud to tell her story of hard work and perseverance, leading to success and bringing purpose to her life. She underlines the need to regularly exceed expectations at work, make networking a habit, and consistently give back. She also makes it a habit to stay fit by exercising regularly.
Ileana leverages the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) fully. She has served as the leader of ALPFA’s Women of ALPFA initiative for the last 3 years and serves and the chairwoman of ALPFA’s Corporate Advisory Board. She’s a strong and visible leader who has helped to create and solidify the Women of ALPFA franchise, transforming it into the most successful initiative for ALPFA. According to her, ALPFA is the go-to organization for acquiring and developing top Latino talent. Ileana also serves on the board of Zoetic Stage, an Arts Partner with the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.
Ileana’s mantra is to regularly take personal risks, never hesitate to ask for help, and use one’s influence to serve others-- not to take from them. As said in the Cuban American community, “hay que servir”, which translates to “you need to be willing to serve.” We must also continuously grow, she adds, as it encourages us to expand our network to include diversity: folks similar to us, others very different to learn and enlarge our worldview. Her expanded view of the world will help Ileana well in her new role.
Below are the answers to the questions we posed for her for this interview:
Raymond Arroyo: You recently transitioned to Morgan Stanley. Tell us about this experience and how your role impacts the company.
Ileana Musa: I joined Morgan Stanley in the Fall 2017. I believe financial services, in particular wealth management, has a real impact in helping global families reach their financial goals and help to manage all aspects of their financial lives. In my new role, I will build a team that can strategically partner with international financial advisors to deliver comprehensive cash management, credit and lending solutions to global families.
I was born in Cuba and was raised in Miami, FL. I’ve always benefited from a diverse culture. This richness afforded to me as I grew up gave both wide and long-reaching perspective. Looking back, I can see how said perspective provided me with the best training for later working with global clients. Multicultural experiences have enriched me. Morgan Stanley’s culture exudes and even prides itself with a passion for taking care of clients through a collaborative and inclusive approach—this is the type of culture in which I thrive.
RA: Our theme for this edition is Small Business and Entrepreneurship. What role does your company play to encourage small businesses to grow and make a deeper impact in the small business community. According to the National Women’s Business Council, there are 1.4 million Latina owned businesses representing nearly 35% of all Hispanic firms in the U.S. How do you and/or Morgan Stanley support Latina owned businesses and entrepreneurship?
IM: Black, Hispanic and women business leaders face significant challenges building strong networks and accessing capital. Morgan Stanley launched the Multicultural Innovation Lab, an accelerator targeting multicultural and women-led early stage technology focused startups, last year. This program provides capital investment, mentorship and access to companies which can help innovative startups get to the next level. Morgan Stanley realizes that Latino consumer wallet growth will outpace millennials and baby boomers by 2020, driving future consumer trends in new directions. As a Latina, I am thrilled to see this level of commitment in an area where we can have a tremendous impact in supporting women of color, including Latinas, take their small businesses to new heights.
RA: You’ve been a strong leader within ALPFA for many years? Why do you invest so much time in that nonprofit organization?
IM: I’ve greatly benefited from mentors, but equally important sponsors, who have supported me throughout my career. We have a responsibility to bring others along and to pay it forward. ALPFA provides an impressive platform through which Latinos can build a strong network while developing leadership skills which are critical to succeed. According to a Pew Research Center Study, the Hispanic share of the U.S. population is expected to reach 24% by 2065, so it’s imperative that companies develop and acquire talent which is culturally reflective of its customers. ALPFA is the go-to for both acquiring and developing top Latino talent.
RA: Who is your role model and why?
IM: By their example, my parents, who both taught me a great deal about resilience and optimism. I was raised by a single mother of three. While I came from very humble beginnings, she taught me that with continuous learning and an iron-strong work ethic we could transcend financial hardship. I met my father at almost 17 (a political prisoner who served a fifteen-year prison term in Cuba). He was a life-long entrepreneur who encouraged me to pursue an advanced degree and move to NYC to pursue a career in Banking. My father was an optimist who always embraced opportunities as they came; finally, he never dwelled on the past. Professionally, I’ve been exposed to many women who have impacted me greatly. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is one. She faced significant challenges, triumphed and broke new ground, nevertheless. Nely Galan is another. Her incredible journey to becoming ‘self-made’ and for her passion in paying it forward through The Adelante movement. Shelley O’Connor, who serves on the board of Catalyst, is the co-head of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, and is one of the most senior female executives at the firm. I’m impressed by her practical approach to having women represented at every level of the company.
RA: For people aspiring to follow in your footsteps, what advice do you have for them?
IM: My often-shared mantra is the legacy that I want to leave to my daughter and the world: Take personal risks, never hesitate to ask. Use your influence to serve, not take. Remember the one caveat: Never fail to embrace the unknown while never forgetting who you are.
RA: Why do you think giving exposure to successful Latinas is important?
IM: In Cuban Spanish there is a maxim for leadership: “Hay que servir”. Translated it reads “you have to be willing to serve”. I believe it’s our/my duty to provide opportunities that amplify the work and contribution of successful Latinas, allowing them to be recognized which is key for advancing professionally. Elevating other Latinas means there are more of us at the top representing our interests, allowing us to pave an easier road for those who follow.
RA: When have you been most satisfied in your life?
IM: My family is at the core of my life. Building a successful career while supporting my husband in his business and growing our family with our daughter Anabella has been incalculably rewarding. I recently visited my grandmother in Cuba. I wanted to make sure that my daughter could meet her great-grandmother who turned 105 in December 2017. These two women, 100 years apart, represent my vision of longevity and growth, inspiring me to foster and support transformational change.
Secondly, giving back to the community as I’ve ascended professionally has given me purpose and satisfaction. I am committed to community leadership roles with ALPFA. I also mentor business women startups through the Cherie Blair Foundation. I am a board member of the Florida International Bankers Association and Zoetic Stage, Downtown Miami’s resident theater company at the Adrienne Arsht Performance Art Center. My passion for the Arts is inspired by my husband, Chaz Mena’s work (www.chazmena.com), a professional actor, writer, producer and published poet. I am very excited about several film projects in-flight which portray Latino talent in meaningful roles that highlight our contribution. These roles have allowed me to serve the community and I believe it’s part of what contributed to my being listed on Fortune magazine’s list of Top 50 Most Powerful Latinas in the US in 2017.
RA: What advice do you have for mid-level Latinas, who continue to fight hard to make it to where you are?
IM: Build a powerful network that includes non-Latinos and men. Share your story and your dreams every step of the way. Finally, be prepared to say “yes” even if it makes you uncomfortable.