Carla Harris is Morgan Stanley’s vice chairman of wealth management, and is considered to be one of the most powerful people on Wall Street.
Two years ago, Harris started investing in the next crop of billion-dollar ideas by looking for the next Facebook, Google or Netflix in what she described as an unconventional way by backing female and multicultural entrepreneurs.
Harris also heads Morgan Stanley's Multicultural Innovation Lab, a program that helps diverse tech entrepreneurs who have faced institutional and cultural barriers to find funding.
“One company was acquired seven weeks after they got into the lab. Another company has received at least two acquisition offers. A third blew through their fundraising goals and they almost doubled the amount of money that they were trying to raise and raise the valuation,” she said during an interview with FOX Business’ Deirdre Bolton, Friday.
Harris said the biggest challenge facing entrepreneurs is influencing founders of an organization to see your long-term vision for the company.
“The most challenging part of the job is actually if I have a founder that is not listening, and they really can't see beyond the vision that they've created and haven't left some space for a potential pivot, if you will,” she said. “That's tough because I remember being that way earlier in my career, and that just means it takes you longer to get to your goal because you didn't listen earlier.
With 30-plus years on Wall Street, the Morgan Stanley vice chair has seen herself in numerous instances where she was not just the only African-American in the boardrooms, but the only woman.
“Despite the fact that we still don't have enough women and enough people of color in positions of leadership and authority, there are more than there were in 1987,” Harris said.
Harris joined the bank after earning a degree in economics from Harvard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She rose through the ranks after her sophomore in college when she joined Morgan Stanley’s Sponsors for Education Opportunity.
Harris said the program was created to expose talented, younger minorities to Wall Street, and vice versa, in the hopes that they will build a pipeline into the newly created analyst programs.
“Every person that I met was a little different than the last person that I met,” she said. “And that said to me there’s a lot of different equations that equal success in this environment, surely there might be one for me.”
When asked what is the best advice she was ever been given, Harris said, “When you answer, answer with confidence.”