Morgan Stanley making 'modest' job cuts; CEO 'wouldn't bet against' Musk

James Gorman, Chairman and Chief Executive of Morgan Stanley, speaks during the Global Financial Leaders Investment Summit in Hong Kong, on Nov 2.
PHOTO: Reuters

NEW YORK – Morgan Stanley is making modest job cuts across the globe, Chief Executive Officer James Gorman said, as Wall Street comes under pressure with dealmaking slowing down.

"Some people are going to be let go," Gorman said at the Reuters Next conference, without specifying numbers. "We're making some modest cuts all over the globe. In most businesses, that's what you do after many years of growth."

Corporations have postponed dealmaking as red-hot US inflation continues at levels way above the Federal Reserve's 2per cent target. That has put pressure on investment banks which earned billions of dollars in advisory fees amid unfettered market optimism last year.

Speaking of Elon Musk, Gorman said he "wouldn't bet against" the billionaire Tesla Inc chief.

"He's probably, along with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and one or two others, the most interesting entrepreneur of last 50 years. Who would not want to do business with a person who has that kind of capability," Gorman added.

Morgan Stanley was among the banks providing US$13 billion (S$17.6 billion) in financing for Musk's US$44-billion acquisition of Twitter Inc.

Reuters reported in October that banks abandoned plans to sell the debt to investors because of uncertainty around Twitter's fortunes and losses, citing people familiar with the matter.

While Musk's management style has raised concerns among advocates of content moderation on one of the biggest social media platforms globally, he has also found support among C-suite executives.

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On Wednesday (Nov 30), Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings called Musk "the bravest, most creative person on the planet."

Gorman said Morgan Stanley was targeting bringing in US$1 trillion of new money every three years. He said the bank plans to boost client assets to US$10 trillion, without specifying a timeframe for the target. Client assets, which include wealth and investment management businesses, were US$5.4 trillion at the end of September.

After taking the helm at the Wall Street giant in 2010, Gorman has transformed Morgan Stanley into a more diversified firm less reliant on its traditional strengths – trading and investment banking.

He struck major deals including the acquisitions of money manager Eaton Vance, online broker E*Trade, stock-plan manager Solium Capital and Smith Barney, a brokerage and investment adviser that became a cornerstone of the bank's wealth management arm.

Wealth management accounted for 47 per cent of Morgan Stanley's revenue in the third quarter, compared with 34 per cent during his first quarter as chief executive.