For Anjelica Kelly Watson, an ever-evolving network of mentors has led to one challenging role after another—and success based on growth through each of them.
On paper, Anjelica Kelly Watson appears to have been destined for her successful career in finance. But get to know her a little, and a more complex journey unfolds, complete with uncertainties and detours—yet still driven by grit and determination. Along the way, Watson credits critical help from a meticulously maintained network of mentors—and the support of an organization called the Toigo Foundation.
Watson, it turns out, wasn’t initially sold on a career in finance. As an undergraduate at Harvard, she had spent a summer interning at a bank, but after graduation, she decided to go into politics. And who could fault her? It was 2009, barely a year after the financial crisis, and change was in the air—especially in Washington, D.C. Like others of her generation, she found herself drawn to the action.
A native of California's Bay Area, Watson had landed a job as a legislative research analyst in the office of now-retired Senator Barbara Boxer. As she dug in on economic policy, trade and taxes, she witnessed close-up the passage of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare legislation, as well as many other political battles of that time.
“It was a fantastic experience,” Watson recalls of her D.C. detour, “And I walked away happy that I scratched that itch.” Having settled to her own satisfaction that politics wasn’t her long-term career, Watson found herself “missing the quantitative element of my interest,” which had been one of the best parts of her bank internship.
So she got back to business—literally. Watson applied to, and was accepted at, Columbia Business School, where she earned a pair of fellowships, including one from the Toigo Foundation, which provides career connections, training and support to diverse business-school graduates launching careers in finance. Through Toigo, Watson found a way to immerse herself in the culture of Wall Street and to build a network that helped her land a position in a top banking program. “The banks sponsor the fellows while they are in business school and provide summer associate opportunities,” she explains.
Part of that network eventually led Watson to a job at Morgan Stanley. “Toigo gave me the ability to develop personal relationships just when I really needed help to navigate the whole process, and it helped me feel prepared,” she says.
While still in business school, Watson spent the summer of 2012 working in Morgan Stanley’s Global Capital Markets division, which helps clients raise money for strategic needs through everything from initial public offerings to leveraged buyouts and other custom deals. There she focused on the energy and healthcare sectors. After earning her MBA, she rejoined the division full time, adding sector expertise in basic materials to her portfolio. She also found a mentor in Sybil Collins, a Managing Director in Fixed Income Capital Markets. “She invested a lot of time in me to help me get up to speed, and I certainly am grateful for that,” Watson says.
Finding managers who saw her potential and wanted to push her to realize even more has been a running theme for Watson at Morgan Stanley. In 2014, she joined the Acquisition Finance team, which gave her the opportunity to work with Anish Shah, a Managing Director and global head of the business, whom she had first met while interviewing for a job at the firm. She relished the chance to learn a new aspect of finance.
“It felt very much like before: I just got the hang of what I was doing and then I was throwing it all out the window to try something new,” she says. “But it was an exciting time, with a boom in M&A, particularly healthcare megamergers.”
The experience also gave Watson the chance to forge relationships across the bank. “I felt like I had a much better network, an organic network, that I was building at the firm and cross-divisionally.”
That led to Watson’s next opportunity. She had always wanted to get more experience on the strategic process of running a giant company, so when Leslie Bazos, the Chief of Staff to Chairman and CEO James Gorman, asked Watson to join her team in 2019, she jumped at the chance.
The new position came with big responsibilities, like briefing Gorman before client meetings and closely tracking for him all of his strategic initiatives and what was happening with each of them. In just the past year, that has included the acquisition of E*TRADE, as well as the firm's response to the pandemic and the racial justice movement sweeping the country. “I just feel like I have such an opportunity to learn, to observe, and to understand truly how this firm works. Once you identify what you are naturally passionate about and where you can add the most value, you have the support to carve out some room for that in your own portfolio,” Watson says.
One such passion has been the firm's Institute for Inclusion, a recently established group under Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion Susan Reid. The Institute’s role is to promote equity within and beyond the firm, through hiring, promotion and awareness initiatives, as well as by investing in underserved communities and advancing the cause of social justice through philanthropy. “Through our seats, we have a great perspective in terms of how to get there,” says Watson.
Even after many years at Morgan Stanley, Watson still finds opportunities to learn and grow with the business, which continues to evolve. She attributes this aspect of her career in no small part to the networking lessons she learned in the Toigo program all those years ago. “I think what's nice about the path that I have traveled is that it has been a lot more organic than I expected. I have been deliberately focused on learning and evolving my capabilities, which came along with, at time, uncomfortable change,” she says. “What's also been nice is that Morgan Stanley has been flexible in ways that I didn't even know that they could be.”