Selma Bueno is a Managing Director and the Head of Multicultural Client Strategy, where she oversees some of Morgan Stanley’s most impactful initiatives to create a more inclusive investment landscape for women and diverse founders. From the Multicultural Innovation Lab, an in-house accelerator for diverse-led startups, to the Next Level Fund, which invests in early-stage technology companies with multicultural and women founders, the programs Bueno and her team lead are at the forefront of our commitment to provide greater access to capital for entrepreneurs too often overlooked and undervalued by investors.
Her path to recognition and success started long before she began working in the finance industry more than 20 years ago. “I’m very fortunate to have amazing parents who invested a lot in my education,” says Bueno. Born in Brazil, she earned an undergraduate degree in business from Fundação Getulio Vargas, a law degree from the University of São Paulo and an MBA from Columbia Business School.
“I come from a family of doctors,” Bueno says, “and I chose to pursue a completely different career. It was a brave new world, trying to break into financial services and understand what it would take to be successful as a Brazilian immigrant who wasn’t raised in the U.S.” She adds, “I’m here because of my parents and every colleague, manager and client who supported me throughout my professional journey.”
She’s the first to say that her career trajectory—which began with a job as an investment banking analyst at another firm before she joined Morgan Stanley in São Paulo, eventually rising to become Global Chief Administrative Officer of Investment Banking—isn’t necessarily the norm. “I don’t come from a traditional finance background,” says Bueno. “Yet, I’m probably one of the most senior Brazilian women executives on Wall Street.” Despite her demanding career, she makes time every day for her son and serves on the board of Books for Kids, a U.S. non-profit dedicated to promoting reading and early literacy among preschool-aged children in under-resourced communities.
Our mission is to create a more inclusive investment landscape for women and diverse founders and to find opportunities to drive inclusive innovation and address inequity in funding. We do that in several ways. The Multicultural Innovation Lab (MCIL), our in-house accelerator for women and multicultural founders, was established in New York in 2017, and recently we expanded the footprint to London. The Innovation Lab is designed to provide startups with three essential “Cs”: capital, content and connections. But I’ll add a fourth: community.
Our latest initiative, the Next Level Fund, is a venture capital fund in partnership with Hearst, Microsoft and Walmart that directly invests in tech or tech-enabled companies with a woman or multicultural founder. The fund is managed in collaboration with our own Investment Management Private Credit & Equity platform and builds upon the expertise of the Multicultural Innovation Lab.
Additionally, we deliver groundbreaking thought leadership through research reports, our award-winning “Access and Opportunity” podcast and the annual Senior Multicultural Leaders Conference.
As a woman, as a Latina, I’m personally invested. I want to see these founders succeed. I want to celebrate the impact we had five or ten years from now when they do their IPOs. I’ll feel proud that we helped them navigate through the beginnings of their businesses and then watched them go on to create successful companies. We do this work not only to help level the playing field, but also because it’s just good business. Research shows that investing in companies with diverse teams, can yield higher returns.
I’m a big believer in the idea that success comes from helping others succeed. That by surrounding yourself with smart people and supporting them, you’re constantly learning and developing, too.
It’s the collaboration—that’s the secret sauce at Morgan Stanley. You can pick up the phone and reach out to anyone here because we’re always willing to help each other. We have one common goal: to deliver the full firm—our best advice, resources and products—to our clients, and we know it takes all of us working together to make that happen.
We were the first investment bank to have both an accelerator and a fund focused solely on multicultural and women-led startups. We are a leader in this space. And with our new Lab in London, we are continuing to grow and expand to help even more founders succeed. These companies have created a tremendous amount of value, and it’s one reason why I’m so passionate about the work we’re doing.