In a rare interview, Greg Fleming, the president of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, spoke to CNBC analysts today.
Fleming, who formerly worked for Merrill Lynch as president and COO from 2007 to 2009, said in so many words that Morgan Stanley is better positioned than many of its competitors (though he didn't name names, Lloyd Blankfein and gang were implied). The reason for this is due to the prowess of the unit Fleming has been overseeing since this past January: Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, the bank's global wealth management unit.
Fleming pointed out that the unit makes up 40 percent of the bank's overall revenue (versus the 14 percent that the investment banking business accounts for and the 18 percent the fixed income unit comprises). He also noted that the wealth management business carries a predictable revenue stream and is a less capital intensive business than others at Morgan Stanley. Currently, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney has more than 17,000 financial advisors and about $1.7 trillion in assets.
As you may recall, the deal that sent Smith Barney from Citi to Morgan Stanley was hatched at the height of the financial crisis. Citigroup was hurting for cash at the time, and Morgan Stanley was looking to diversify and survive. Two years later, it appears that the deal has been successful for both banks: Citi is thriving, and Morgan Stanley is more than surviving.
(Related: Say Hello to Smith Stanley and BofAML)