“When I first entered the financial services business,” says Jeanie Knigin, GWSB MBA ’83 and Morgan Stanley financial advisor, “I really stood out – women were extremely rare. Now it’s very common.”
This year, Jeanie celebrates 40 years of working in finance, the past 30+ of which have been spent in New York. Jeanie graduated from the College of William & Mary with an economics degree and began her career in banking, then moved to a regional financial services firm in Washington, D.C. Her passion for learning, which continues to this day, inspired her to pursue an MBA at what was then called the School of Government and Business Administration at GW. She has always felt that “knowledge is power,” and her GW degree—completed at night while working full time during the day—bolstered an already burgeoning career in finance. She credits her GW experience for schooling her in the fundamentals of accounting and finance that are still a core part of her work today.
While discrimination, sexism, and cutthroat competition have long been among the more objectionable aspects of the Wall Street environment, Jeanie has a unique perspective that has helped her transcend these challenges, due in large part to the niche she has carved out for herself. Because there were so few women in the financial sector when she first started, she developed a clientele that included many female clients.
“Generally, I find it more comfortable working with women,” she says. “It’s not an unusual thing; people often are more comfortable dealing with reflections of themselves. Even today, the focus of my client base is women who are 50-plus, divorced, or widowed; or working with couples where the husband may be older and is looking for someone he can trust to help his wife with her finances going forward.” And while she has worked for some of the country’s biggest financial services companies, she views her clients as her ultimate “boss.”
Even after 40 years, Jeanie approaches her career with the same enthusiasm and energy she demonstrated when she launched her career. She sets goals, both personal and professional, every year. She surrounds herself with quotes that inspire her to be her best (Eleanor Roosevelt’s “Do one thing every day that scares you” is one of her current favorites). And she enjoys sharing her knowledge, experience, and caring in a variety of ways: serving as volunteer, educator, and mentor.
For 15 years she has served as a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, spending a week at a small liberal arts college in the United States, teaching classes, interacting with students, and bringing her real-world experience to the classroom. She hopes to do the same at GW. I feel like I am making a real difference,” Jeanie says. “I have an impact on the lives of these students. It’s my way of giving back.” —Joan Ochi