From Wall Street Analyst to Main Street Community Banker | Net Impact

From Wall Street Analyst to Main Street Community Banker

Haydeé Moreno, Micro Branch Director, Center for Community Self Help

Haydeé Moreno was a hard-charging financial analyst who walked away from a lucrative Wall Street career to embrace community finance. Now she runs the Micro Branch, an innovative credit union for underserved communities. If you spoke to her ten years ago, she would have had no idea this is what she’d be doing today. Truth is, she expected to be sitting in a swanky corner office at Goldman Sachs.

From suburban Texas all the way to Wall Street

A Mexican-American who experienced all the struggles of being first-generation, Haydeé was always focused on achieving big things. As she entered the University of Texas, she gravitated to business as a place to make her mark. To her, it fit perfectly with her disciplined and structured way of thinking. Determined to get the best internships, she spent summers at J.P. Morgan and Cargill – which set her up nicely to join the elite cadre of Wall Street analysts. After graduation, she landed a coveted position in J.P. Morgan’s mergers & acquisitions group and later Goldman Sachs equity research team. Quickly, Haydeé was on track to becoming a top analyst in her field.

An unexpected change of heart

But something happened on her way to achieving those high-reaching goals: “I think that for a long time I was motivated by that next challenge. It was getting into college, and then it was getting the grades and internships, then the job, then the most challenging sector within that job. When I got to my end goal, I stopped to think: ‘what am I actually doing in the world?’”

While her boss and colleagues on the Street shook their heads, Haydeé stuck to her guns and began forging a new plan for herself. She researched organizations like Ashoka. She made the big decision to move back to Austin, where she could be closer to family and live more cheaply. And she went to work for a Community Development Financial Institution(CDFI). This deep swing of the pendulum showed her that her business background could apply to a social mission, but she still remained uncertain on where to focus her efforts. She wanted to have a positive impact, but with something that still had a financially self-sustaining ethos. But where? She determined that business school would be a good place to learn more.

The moment of deeper discovery

During her time at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Haydeé got her Eureka moment. She interned with Pacific Community Ventures, a nonprofit that worked on a financially self-sustaining model. “I was helping execute this idea around health and financial services. The audience was largely Latino immigrant families. These were people who were struggling, who looked and sounded like my own family. And I had this crazy epiphany - that everything I‘d done so far had positioned me to serve Latino families through financial services.”

A new way forward

So Haydeé dove in head first. She took every entrepreneurship class she could. She started doing huge amounts of market research and informational interviews to help her develop a business idea around Latino communities and finance. That’s when she met Steve Zuckerman of Self Help. As it turns out, a colleague of his had been trying to develop a very similar idea. Things clicked into place. Soon, Steve recruited Haydeé to launch a new “micro branch” as a division of Self Help Federal Credit Union dedicated to the immigrant community.

After an intense startup period with the Micro Branch, Haydeé can now offer some thoughts on her career path.

  • Do some self-reflection. As you begin establishing yourself in your career, it can really help to spend some time thinking more deeply about who you are, where you come from, and what you want.
  • Get the most from informational interviews. Some of Haydeé’s practical advice is to 1) recognize that people are busy and be persistent in your outreach 2) take the initiative in suggesting dates and times to chat 3) go in with an interest in their work and how it might apply to you 4) be respectful of their time 5) use follow-up emails to maintain relations.
  • Recognize your transferrable skills. The experience Haydeé got on Wall Street proved indispensible when she moved over to more mission-driven work. She’s now using those skills to make sure that she can help the community while also running a disciplined and self-sustaining business.