In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Morgan Stanley’s current CEO, James Gorman, and the incoming CEO, Ted Pick, shared insights into the company’s leadership transition and its strategic direction. The discussion covered various aspects of Morgan Stanley’s past accomplishments, future strategy, and the qualities that make Ted Pick the ideal choice as Gorman’s successor.
Gorman reflected on the significant transformation the company has undergone during his 14-year tenure. He stated, “Thanks to James’s leadership, we are quite a different firm from the one that we knew during the depths of the financial crisis. During James’s 14 years, we built a world-class wealth and asset management business and continued to grow a world-class investment bank alongside it.”
Continuity in Strategy
Gorman emphasized the company’s commitment to its existing strategy. He said, “There is no change in strategy. We just completed two major acquisitions, the three largest acquisitions post the financial crisis were headed by James, Smith Barney, E*Trade at the dawn of COVID, and then Eaton Vance. We’ve integrated those transactions. We’re going to continue to execute as we have, and down the road, years from now, we’ll keep our eyes peeled. But we’ve got something we think is durable and winning across the two major businesses.”
Rival CEO Candidates
Gorman underlined the strong relationships within the leadership team, particularly with rival CEO candidates Andy Saperstein and Dan Simkowitz. He mentioned, “They are not just amazing colleagues, they’re terrific friends. We’ve covered clients together, we’ve been doing town halls together in every combination. Dan and Andy have scouted acquisition targets together. Dan and I worked together as co-heads of strategy. Andy and I covered some large asset managers together.”
Commenting on the current market challenges, Gorman acknowledged, “It’s been a challenging market. The stock market has had a long-term outperformance that is extraordinary over multiple years. And this is a volatile environment for the entire group. So we will manage through it, but a couple of weeks of market action really has no bearing on how we’re thinking about the strategy.”
Ted Pick’s Qualities
Gorman discussed the selection of Ted Pick as his successor and the qualities that make Pick the right fit for the role. He noted, “We picked (Pick) because he’s had a long history of showing he’s an exceptional operator. But that’s part of the job of being a CEO, the other part is the resilience, the judgment, the ability to create a followership. He breeds incredible loyalty from his people. He sat side-by-side with me for the last decade on pretty much every important issue this firm has been through. And you know, I saw him up close when things were tense, when we went through some very tough times – he didn’t wilt. I know what it takes to be CEO of a global company. It takes enormous resilience and mental toughness, and he’s got that.”
Gorman shared his plans for the future, stating, “Next year’ll be predominantly Morgan Stanley. I’ll do more in education, a little teaching. I chair Columbia Business School, I have a role at the University of Melbourne, and I’ll do a bit of that. And I don’t know, I may go on a board or something. I’m still sorting that out. But right now, this is about celebrating Ted and his elevation.”
Investigation into Block Trading
On the ongoing investigation into the bank’s block trading practices, Gorman explained, “It’s a DOJ and SEC matter, so I obviously can’t talk about it. But I’m comfortable, in a position I’ll be around to help fix up on the loose ends.”
This interview provides valuable insights into the leadership transition at Morgan Stanley, the company’s unwavering strategy, and the strengths of the incoming CEO, Ted Pick, as well as James Gorman’s future plans.