Investing in Paradise
October 01, 2007
In the wee hours of the morning in Hawaii, 11-year-old Gwen Pacarro rolled out of bed to deliver newspapers with her brother. At age 14, she ventured into babysitting, and the following year she was part of the team that opened the first Farrell’s ice cream parlor franchise in Honolulu.
“I’ve pretty much been working ever since,” she says.
On April 13, her 53rd birthday, Pacarro took the helm as executive director and manager of the Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management Group office in Hawaii.
“I feel like I’ve been training for this my whole life,” she says. “It’s a wonderful job.”
Pacarro began her career with United Airlines in Portland and Honolulu, but felt stymied by a corporate structure that seemed limiting. In 1983, with no formal finance training, she joined Dean Witter (now Morgan Stanley) in Hawaii. Thrilled to be moving home, she was also eager to work in a field with substantial earnings potential.
Continuing to learn while she earned, Pacarro acquired additional professional designations from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Her hard work has paid off. Recently, Barron’s magazine listed her as one of the country’s top 100 female financial advisors.
As a successful woman in a male-dominated profession, Pacarro says she’s always felt accepted, respected, and mentored by amazing colleagues, both men and women. She used her minority status, along with her background in psychology, to give herself an edge, tailoring her client base to mainly couples and families.
“Behavioral sciences play a big role in investing,” she says. “It’s paramount to understand how people’s personalities and life experiences influence the achievement of financial goals.”
She also credits her “very special” husband, Gary Pacarro, for helping her balance her career and motherhood. “I’ve noticed that women who succeed in business generally find a partner who complements them, not someone who is just like them,” she says. Shared, flexible parenting responsibilities while raising two children kept her from putting her career on hold, a dilemma many women face, she says.
In 1998, she launched the Pacarro Group within Morgan Stanley, a five-person team that now includes her husband, and their daughter Noel Pacarro, as financial advisors. This pioneering internal team approach to comprehensive wealth management for individuals and endowments has been adopted throughout Morgan Stanley and across the industry. “It allows us to better serve our clients in an exceedingly complex market,” she says.
Also committed to community service, Pacarro served as chair of the Women’s Fund of Hawaii for the last two years. The fund provides grants to organizations that help women and girls become safe, financially secure, and empowered.
“When women thrive,” she says, “the community prospers.”
–by Pattie Pace