75 Most Powerful Blacks on Wall Street

Melissa E. James

Managing Director & Global Head of Loan Products
Morgan Stanley
Age: 47

“I didn’t necessarily intend to stay my entire professional career,” says Melissa E. James of Morgan Stanley. “In fact, back then, it was pretty grueling, especially when you start in the junior ranks. You’re working exceedingly long hours.”

James, who marks her 24th year at the global financial services firm, now oversees Morgan Stanley’s commercial lending business and its $70 billion in loan commitments—a business she helped establish. Over the years, James has held several positions, including running the industrial origination effort in Debt Capital Markets, where she helped raise billions in capital for corporate clients and worked on some of the firm’s most complex transactions. Those include the first domestic yen issuance for General Electric Capital Corp.; the first global bond for DuPont; and a complex debt-for-equity swap in connection with the $4 billion initial public offering for Agere, then the largest U.S. technology company IPO in history.

Those early years were critical in honing James’ business acumen and helped make her one of the most influential blacks in finance. “My career steadily became more fulfilling every year as I learned from my colleagues and was motivated by the firm’s culture,” says James, who has a bachelor’s from Yale and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. “I look back at my career opportunities and professional contributions and know that they have outweighed any sacrifices that were required.”

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