Determined to have her voice heard in the financial sector, Sandra L. Richards now leads with over 20 years of experience.

Since May 2007, she has been a dedicated member of Morgan Stanley. Initially hired as a director, diversity specialist, she supported diversity strategies in recruiting, retention, and business development. Over the years, Richards has been promoted six times, including moving into roles as vice president, business development officer – diverse and multicultural markets; managing director, head of business development and segment marketing; and most recently, managing director, head of global sports & entertainment and segment sales & engagement group for the past five years, according to LinkedIn.

In her current role, she focuses on helping entertainers, industry professionals, and athletes build wealth by providing advice, tools, and resources. She is spearheading the digital financial education program Money In The Making, which encompasses topics such as budgeting, saving, investing, and name, image, and likeness (NIL).

Richards is also committed to expanding the division’s team with diverse voices to better cater to clients’ unique needs.

AFROTECH™ had a conversation with Richards about her tenure at Morgan Stanley, prioritizing and creating initiatives surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, and more.

She is among the 2024 AFROTECH™ Future 50, recognized for being a Corporate Catalyst — leading as a trailblazer and upholding diversity as she climbed the corporate ladder.

AFROTECH: You’ve been a part of Morgan Stanley for nearly two decades now. What initially attracted you to the company, and how has your perception of it evolved over the years?

Sandra L. Richards: When I first joined Morgan Stanley, I was drawn by the firm’s reputation. Let’s be honest, it has a pretty big presence in the financial world. But at the same time, it felt like a place where my voice could be heard. I just got a good vibe from the start. Over the years, that hasn’t changed. In fact, as I’ve grown into my role within the Global Sports & Entertainment division, we’ve built a team whose voices are also respected. And this isn’t just unique to GSE, the entire organization has a genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion. We’re constantly pushing the boundaries of what it means to be inclusive, from the clients we serve to the people we hire and the communities we support and serve.

This has even changed how I view leadership and success in our industry. It’s not just about the numbers; it’s about the impact that we can have on people’s lives, including our own employees and our community. That’s a powerful thing. And it keeps me excited about what we can accomplish next.

AFROTECH: Looking back on your journey since joining Morgan Stanley, what was your initial mission statement, and how has that been met and evolved?

Sandra L. Richards: When I first stepped into my role at Morgan Stanley, my mission was clear: to build on the firm’s diversity and inclusion foundation. This meant a lot to me because a corporate culture in which everyone feels like they belong is everything. It’s not only fundamental to Morgan Stanley’s role as a global leader but it also plays a huge role in terms of the clients we serve. I took these cultural foundations with me as I shifted into a business development position focused on engagement in the diverse and multicultural markets. Soon, I was heading up the Global Sports & Entertainment division, supporting our Financial Advisors that are helping the next generation of stars in sports and entertainment towards building generational wealth.

So, over the years, while my role has evolved, the mission of fostering a diverse and inclusive enviornment has endured. In fact, it hasn’t just endured, it’s grown significantly in terms of reach, scope, and impact. 

AFROTECH: What factors have contributed to your long-term tenure at Morgan Stanley?

Sandra L. Richards: What’s kept me at Morgan Stanley so long comes down to a few key things. First and foremost, I’m always learning. The finance world is constantly on the move, always changing. It’s an exciting environment that has really pushed me to grow professionally. Another major factor is the people. I work with some of the most talented and driven professionals in the business. Our team is fantastic. They’re like family to me. For this reason, my work doesn’t feel like a job. Lastly, I help people. Consider a young athlete or entertainer we work with — our job is to guide them, helping them make smart financial choices. Or as I like to say, teach them how to make some boss money moves. It’s really fulfilling to do this, and to help people build a more secure future.

AFROTECH: Can you share the significance of the establishment of the company’s Global Sports & Entertainment division?

Sandra L. Richards: Athletes and entertainers face a big challenge. Their careers are often short-lived with intense earnings periods, followed by potentially long gaps and even decades of retirement. We saw a void that our Financial Advisors could fill as they understand the arcs of their careers. That’s why Morgan Stanley’s Global Sports & Entertainment division was created 10 years ago. This division is about more than just managing money. It’s about understanding the whole lifestyle that comes with being in the limelight. This step was a big part of our mission to not just serve but genuinely empower our clients in every way possible. And it’s worked. Our growth has been significant, evolving from a team of 59 Financial Advisors to over 300 Global Sports and Entertainment Directors and Associate Directors, as well as NFLPA Registered Institutional Financial Advisors. 

I’m so proud to be celebrating GSE’s 10th year in 2024. The scope and nature of the work have evolved along with the team. Our Global Sports and Entertainment Directors are experienced in servicing unique and complex financial needs of athletes and entertainers, executives, and other industry professionals and emerging talent. As the landscape changes, we adapt and provide tailored advice regarding evolutions, like changes in NIL legislation and music catalog sales, just to name a few.

In June, we’re launching a new audiocast series focused on insurance solutions for the sports and entertainment industry. It may not be top of mind for many people, but the way that athletes and entertainers insure their bodies, homes, and careers can potentially have lifelong impacts on their finances and legacy. 

AFROTECH: Are there any key achievements that have shaped Morgan Stanley’s trajectory towards fulfilling its overarching mission to help individuals achieve their financial wellness goals?

Sandra L. Richards: I firmly believe that when people feel represented and included, they are more empowered to reach their full potential, both financially and in other aspects of their lives. One of Morgan Stanley’s key achievements in this area has been fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace. We understand that having a company comprised of different genders, cultures, and backgrounds brings a wealth of knowledge, perspectives, and ideas. Studies have shown that diverse teams are not only more innovative, but also better at problem-solving and productivity, which directly benefits our clients. Moreover, our DEI initiatives extend beyond our internal team. For instance, our programs aimed at empowering women and minorities in finance have unlocked opportunities for many who might have otherwise felt excluded from the industry. 

AFROTECH: What are some initiatives and/ or programs implemented by Morgan Stanley’s Global Sports & Entertainment division, or that you’ve worked on with the aim of promoting diversity within the company?

Sandra L. Richards: Promoting diversity within our Global Sports & Entertainment division has been both a priority and a passion project for me. Over the years, we have expanded our team significantly, ensuring it reflects a rich tapestry of experiences and perspectives. This diversity enhances our ability to understand and meet the unique needs of our clients from various backgrounds. It also allows for different perspectives and ideas within our team. Another thing that I’m proud of is our mentorship programs that are aimed at supporting career advancement for women and minorities within our firm. These programs not only help in personal and professional growth but also ensure that diverse talents are prepared for leadership roles.

As we continue to build on these efforts, our commitment remains steadfast: to create an inclusive environment where every voice is heard and valued.