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Yale ICF Advisory Board Member Spotlight: Rebecca Lilly '98

Rebecca Lilly '98 is an ICF Advisory Board Member and a Financial Advisor and Invest with Impact Director at the Centre Harbour Group, Morgan Stanley

In this blog series, the Yale ICF will highlight ICF Advisory Board Members who are practitioners from various finance fields and alumni of the Yale School of Management and/or Yale University. Our board members enjoy giving back to the Yale community by participating in panels, guest lecturing, and taking part in Q&A sessions with students. Their generous financial support allows the Yale ICF to host events, sponsor academic initiatives, provide research support to faculty, and much more. The Yale ICF is grateful for their continued support!

1. What is your current role and industry?

I am a Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley currently based in Greenwich CT and with a team focusing on institutional clients such as foundations, endowments, government entities and corporations as well as private clients and multigenerational families. No matter the type of client we serve, our mission is to support the prosperity and protection of their mission.

2. How did you get into the field?

Since my early days in undergrad, my naïve plan was to get my BA in economics, work, get an MBA and then continue to work and gain experience to a level where I could take a career break to be with my children for their first few years before going back to a meaningful career. The plan was successful in that it played out as intended, but I now believe a full career break was not the right choice for my situation and future success. Some good came out of it though including a lot of ‘lessons learned’ that I share with family, friends and clients.

The primary reason I became a financial advisor was dissatisfaction with my own financial advisor who usually talked about trading stock and bonds and not about my life and the decisions I needed to make to ensure my, and my family’s, financial success. With a husband who runs a biotech start-up and a blended family of 6 children (5 of which are in college), there is a lot to consider on keeping us all on the right financial path. In the same way my job helps me take care of my family, I am passionate about helping others make thoughtful decisions to grow and protect their wealth and achieve their life goals and dreams.

3. What are the biggest challenges and opportunities that professionals in your industry face?

Biggest challenges are cutting through an industry full of complexity, pockets of non-transparency, misinformation, emotion, psychology and inequitable access to quality information. Most frustrating personally is the fact that people who need help the most typically have the least access - equal and open access to financial literacy would go a long way. Second most frustrating part is preserving and protecting wealth requires a different skill set and approach than making money, but a lot of people
confuse the two and can lead to outsized risk in portfolios and sub-optimal results. Third is behavioral biases that impede decision-making and clear judgement.

Biggest opportunities lie in the most fundamental aspect of our job: to provide high quality investment strategies and portfolio construction for a reasonable cost that are aligned uniquely for the people or institution they belong to. Our team also provides financial planning for individuals and financial modelling for institutions as well as regular portfolio risk analysis and ESG alignment reporting which are becoming industry standards. When we get all this right not only do we have a client for good, but also a deep satisfaction that we are helping people / institutions be their best.

4. Where do you see the industry going in the future?

The next 20 years will provide the greatest transfer of generational wealth in history. Some have estimated this to be in the range of $40-50+ trillion. This coupled with increased awareness of sustainable business practices and emerging technologies in many fields such as energy, transportation and healthcare will bring business-solutions for the world get more efficient, sustainable, equitable, cleaner and healthier.

I had the wonderful opportunity to be a guest lecturer for James Choi’s SOM Personal Finance class, students asked about the potential of AI replacing financial advisors. While AI might significantly aid financial data analysis, the past 3 years with unprecedented multiple financial shocks and crises on a human and economic levels proved that people more than ever want to connect, felt heard and understood by another person who cares and who could offer perspective, advice and support.

5. What advice do you have for someone new to the industry?

There are many different facets to the industry, so my biggest advice is what is the skill set that fuels your passion? Is it communicating and connecting with people? Is it understanding the markets and trading? Is it portfolio construction and asset allocation to a strategic objective? Is it other important areas such as trust, tax and estate planning? It takes an overlap of these skills and many others to do the job well and not doing the job well is not an option. The most critical two factors are finding good people to work with and a firm that provides world class excellence in thought leadership and a critical cybersecurity and compliance infrastructure.

Rebecca Lilly's Bio

Becky is a member of The Centre Harbour Group at Morgan Stanley which services both private clients and institutions such as non profits, foundations, endowments, pensions and defined contribution plans. Becky previously worked in the Private Wealth Management division of Morgan Stanley for her first 5+ years at the firm where she focused on ultra high net worth private clients.

For non profits, endowments and foundations, Becky works to provide investment consulting services aligned with the risk / return objectives and broader operations / mission of these organizations. For individuals and families, Becky works to develop and implement financial and investment management strategies to help meet their short term needs and long term goals in coordination with their values, business concerns, philanthropy and outside estate / tax advisors.

Becky has a background in high net worth client investment management derived from working in the art market at Sotheby’s as well as investment analysis from being a management consultant in the healthcare industry and director of PR & advertising for an international family owned company. She received an MBA from the Yale School of Management and her undergraduate degree from Tufts University with majors in Economics & Art History. During a voluntary career break, Becky founded a non profit, coached competitive youth soccer teams, competed in triathlons and open water swims as well a s volunteered extensively in her community of Rye New York where she currently lives with her husband and where they provide a home base for their 6 college age children and a dog & cat. Becky returned to work through the Goldman Sachs ‘ Returnship ’ program in January 2014.

Becky has experience and knowledge in sustainable investing including ESG / SRI strategies as well as family wealth planning and multigenerational wealth dynamics including financial tutoring which all promote thoughtful financial management.