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HSF Leaders

James Cotto

  • Gender: Male
  • University: Rutgers - The State University of New Jersey
  • Undergraduate Degree: Spanish
  • Undergraduate Degree: Marketing
  • Hometown: Hazlet
  • State: New Jersey
  • Organization: Morgan Stanley Wealth Management
  • Position Title: Executive Director, Wealth Advisor
  • HSF Leadership Role: Member, HSF Advisory Council, New York

Bronx-born James Cotto understood, early on, the importance of a college education—it was a message that was reinforced by his Puerto Rican parents, as he was growing up in Hazlet, New Jersey.

Determined to go to college, but lacking funds to pay for it, he decided invest in his own future by taking out some loans. This enabled him to attend Rutgers University, where he subsequently graduated with a BA in Spanish and Marketing, becoming the first among his cousins, on both sides of his family, to earn a college degree.

The experience of attaining an advanced education and navigating the financial world to do so, led James to enter the field of finance. Moreover, he says his willingness to continue learning, has been another important key to his success. “Life is a never-ending learning process,” he said in an interview with OutlooK-12.  

“You realize that every day you can learn something new to make your life better. When I was younger, I thought I knew more. I thought I knew it all when I was 17. I realized when I was 25 I didn’t know it all. When I was 40, I was willing to listen. Now…I really don’t know as much as I thought I knew, and I am willing to learn.”

Over the past 30 years, James has held various roles of increasing responsibility in finance. In his current position, he serves as Executive Director, Wealth Management, and as a Wealth Advisor at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, where he advises individuals, entrepreneurs, corporations, and nonprofits on how to pursue “financial independence” and “financial sustainability for philanthropic organizations most important to them.”

James has been recognized for his professional accomplishments many times, including being named a Top 1,000 Advisor by Barron’s, a sister publication of The Wall Street Journal.

Outside of work, he is active in the community as a member of the Latino Donor Collaborative advisory network, ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals for America), Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, and Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute. He also serves on the benefactors committee of Operation Smile.

A member of HSF’s Advisory Council in New York, he says he is proud to serve, and notes HSF’s role in Latino affairs as “one of the most important organizations serving the Latino community in this country” that “will continue to be the model for other organizations to emulate.” 

For students who are ready to graduate college and enter a profession, he provides succinct advice and sets expectations for the hard work and challenges that lie ahead on the road to achievement. “Wake up, suit up, and never ever give up,” he says. “If you think you are going to be able to take the elevator to success, you are mistaken. You have to take the stairs.”