In 1981, Merle moved to Florida and worked for a precious metals company for two years, until it closed its doors. The next day, she interviewed at Dean Witter, a predecessor firm of Morgan Stanley, and started the day after that, as a wire operator and cashier in operations. Soon, she transitioned to become a client service assistant to the financial advisors. “Working with clients was my favorite part of the business,” she says.
She developed and implemented a superior service model that the clients had never experienced before. Eventually, clients began calling her for advice and “talking to me about their family and goals. I decided to take the leap and study for my exams and become a Financial Advisor myself.”
She accomplished that mission at a time when there were few women in the industry. “I was one of three Financial Advisor women in my complex, and we were told to wear pantsuits to fit in with the men,” remembers Merle, who found it very challenging for women early on in a male-dominated industry. “I was expected to be seen, not heard,” she adds. “I had to work hard, learn to use my voice and stand up for what I believed in.”
Since then, Merle has earned the designations of Insurance Planning Director, Alternative Investments Director, and Family Wealth Advisor. Merle has expanded her practice to serve 300 multi-generational families and businesses and manages $460 million in assets, making her a member of Morgan Stanley’s Master’s Club, a rank she’s held since 1992. She’s grateful to be in an industry where women and their accomplishments are now celebrated, “especially here at Morgan Stanley, where we’re valued unquestionably.”
This year, she was named a Morgan Stanley MAKER, joining a community of advocates, innovators, and groundbreakers for women’s advancement, all nominated by their peers. She’s humbled to be among the firm’s MAKERS Class of 2023, which marks the program’s 10th anniversary, and to receive its Lifetime Achievement Award.
“It’s an incredible honor to be recognized as a leader in our industry,” says Merle, who’s also earned spots on the Forbes list of America’s Best-in-State Wealth Advisors (2018-2023), the Forbes list of America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors Best-in-State (2017- 2023), the Forbes list of America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors (2020-2023) and Working Mother Magazine’s Top Wealth Advisor Moms (2017- 2021). In addition, The Zislin Group was named to the Forbes list of Best-In-State Wealth Management Teams (2023).