My Career Choice: Jeanie Knigin – Morgan Stanley

What could be a better way to ring in a new year than a sound investment plan?  And if so, and with the abundance of advice choices available, what’s the best avenue to pursue to find the right person to help?

Enter Jeanie Knigin—celebrating her 40th year as a financial advisor, serving mostly women. A First Vice President, Financial Planning Specialist, and Senior Investment Management Specialist at Morgan Stanley, she boasts an impressive roster of clients, ranging from couples, divorced or widowed women, to Park Avenue grand dames. One thing is apparent upon meeting Jeanie: With 40 years of sometimes-turbulent markets under her belt, she has helped her clients survive countless market cycles, a track record few robo advisors can claim.

Joining the business when there were few women in it, Jeanie’s not afraid to counsel clients to stay in cash when it makes sense to do so, nor will she push them to invest if they are not comfortable doing it. (Full disclosure: when she and I met over drinks, and I shared my fear about losing assets during a vulnerable time, her response was, “Then you shouldn’t invest until you’re more comfortable.”)  She’s about helping you define your goals and developing a path to achieving them. She doesn’t promise there won’t be bumps along the way—no reputable investment advisor would—but she’ll be there to hold your hand, take your call, and help you weather the storm should volatility rear its head.

If getting your financial life on track is among your New Year’s resolutions, you can contact Jeanie here.

Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?
When my sister and I were children our mother gave us stock certificates as presents. Our father was career Navy so it was usually only 1 share of a particular company. One day when I was about 12-13 years old mother showed me how to read the stock tables and I realized I had accumulated $200+ which I thought was more money than existed in the world. I turned to her that day and announced this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

What about this career choice did you find most appealing?
I think the most appealing thing about this career choice is the ability to help people. I keep on my wall at work a quote from Bertha Von Suttner (first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize), “After the verb ‘to love,’ ‘to help is the most beautiful verb in the world.”

What steps did you take to begin your education or training?
My undergraduate degree was in Economics and I then obtained an MBA in Finance and Investments. Along the way I have also obtained my CFP, CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) and am currently working on my CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst).

Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?
I don’t remember that either way.

Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change?
At one point I decided to go into management which was a mistake. I enjoy working with individual clients and helping them map out their financial futures.

When did your career reach a tipping point?
I do not believe it has reached a tipping point.

Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?
I believe the biggest challenge we all face is internal which is why I keep quotes all over my walls both at work and at home.  My favorite woman is Eleanor Roosevelt and I have a lot of quotes from her.  My top three are:

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

What single skill has proven to be most useful?
I try to be an active listener. This means focusing on what the other person is saying.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am proud of the help I have been to others.

Any advice for others entering your profession?
Follow the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

About Merry Sheils (19 Articles)
Merry Sheils won the New York Press Club’s Journalism Award for best business writing in 2011 and 2012. As a portfolio manager for private clients, she writes a financial column for WomenAroundTown.com as well as features and profiles. She frequently writes economic and capital markets commentary, including white papers, thought leadership pieces and investment reports, for companies and investment managers. Prior to becoming a writer, Merry worked as a senior portfolio manager and investment analyst at BNYMellon and Wilmington Trust Company (now M&T Bank). A SUNY graduate with a degree in finance, she is the author of “Debt-Based Securities” and has been published in The Financial Times, Forbes and Chief Executive Magazine, and has appeared as a guest on CNBC. She founded First New York Equity, Incorporated, an investment advisory firm, and sold it to Price Waterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers). She divides her time between New York City and her 18th century house in Columbia County, NY, where she is active in the North Chatham Free Library, the Old Chatham Hunt Club and the Columbia County Historical Society.