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Deborah Montaperto, J81, A13P

Deborah Montaperto, J81, A13PBACKGROUND
Deborah Montaperto, J81, is a senior vice president at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management. After spending more than 20 years in investment banking with firms such as Dean Witter and Citigroup, she was promoted to managing director in 2006 at Citigroup's Investment Bank. In 2008, she made a significant transition to wealth management, becoming senior partner with the Polk Group, a wealth-management practice with Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management. This move meant switching from a decidedly corporate culture to a more entrepreneurial one. For the last two years, Deborah has been listed on Barron's Top 100 Women Financial Advisors.

You've made a major move recently from a more corporate culture (investment banking) to a more entrepreneurial one. What have been the upsides/downsides of that transition?

Deborah Montaperto (DM): In this role I am a business owner, and my team and I essentially "own" our own clients to a great extent. I get to see a direct link between my efforts and my results, and I am able to choose with whom I want to work. I really enjoy the sense that if I work really hard, I can reap the benefits. I prefer having "skin in the game".

The downsides are that client acquisition is a constant challenge and that we are so often at the whim of the markets. Unlike the corporate world, where you can often actually "coast" for a while, when you are in an entrepreneurial environment, you have to produce to exist.

I'm on a team and we work very closely together, so there are no secrets among us. This is a huge adjustment from the corporate world, where it was easier to have more distant relationships with people. Because we work so closely together, it's important to partner with people that you like and trust.

This year, in its event programming, the Tufts Financial Network is focusing on the "opportunity of (financial) crisis." Where do you personally see opportunities in the economic upheaval of the past three years? What will market conditions look like five years from now?

DM: What we saw in 2007 to 2009 was that money was always in motion. When markets are tough, we acquire more assets and clients, albeit at a lower amount. We actually like choppy markets, because when times are good, people are more complacent and don't necessarily want to move their assets.

In five years, I believe that we will be in a boom market. However, right now, we are experiencing a very slow growth, and I feel that we will continue to be in a tough market for the next couple of years.

What advice would you offer to recent Tufts graduates who are just starting careers in financial services?DM: This will be a tough decade for those who are starting out, and you will need to enjoy what you are doing. So don't get into financial services for the money because it may not be the place to earn the most money in the next five years.

SIf you like being a hunter and winning, then this is definitely a good career. If you enjoy working with smart people in a really hard and fast-paced environment, and if you appreciate the sense that your reward is commensurate with your efforts, then by all means join the financial services field.

You were recognized by Barron's as one of the Top 100 Women Financial Advisors in 2011. What are 2-3 essential skills needed to achieve such success in your field today?

DM: It's important to work hard, be diligent and learn constantly. My team and I are in the office before everyone else, and we leave after everyone else leaves.

In addition to working hard, you have to like and connect with people because you are helping them achieve their dreams. Our clients never say that they just want to have millions of dollars in the bank. They always attach their monetary goals to the people in their lives; they want to leave a legacy, they want their children or grandchildren to go to a good college. Yes, you have to be smart to succeed in this field, but you really have to be someone that other people trust. It's vitally important to develop people skills because people want you to be their trusted advisors. They want to know that you are looking out for their best interests and the interests of their families.

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