Morgan Stanley CEO: 'Live It Up Today, For Tomorrow We Die'

by Derek Loosvelt | January 31, 2011

Actually, what James Gorman said (in an interview with The Wall Street Journal) was this: "We'll all end up in the ground, so you might as well enjoy the ride."

As of late, Morgan Stanley's chief epicurean officer has certainly been enjoying his ride, especially its latest loop: "a 35% profit jump in the fourth quarter, seen by many analysts as a sign of progress in turnaround efforts that include shuffling top executives and shedding lackluster businesses."

Still, Gorman admitted there's a long way to go and a lot of work to be done, not the least of which is raising Morgan Stanley's share price, currently trading below that of its competitors. Gorman said give the firm another two years and the price will hit its target.

As for bankers' pay packages, there's no need to wait.

"They're back in balance," according to Gorman. "I'm perfectly happy with people making a lot of money if they're talented and they generate real revenues."

Speaking of those revenues, when asked about the social utility that investment banks do (or do not) provide, Gorman showed off his vocabulary. "Trying to define specific jobs as social utilities is a little spurious" (that is, not genuine, authentic, or true). Gorman qualified his statement by delivering, as evidence, every invesment banking CEO's favorite (and perhaps sole) example of the social good that their firms supply: "Is it not a good outcome for the airline industry to be able to hedge its fuel costs? The trader can help them." (Goldman's Lloyd Blankfein is especially fond of this example, employing it often when asked the same question.)

Gorman also played the spurious card when asked about the Volcker Rule ("I'm not a fan," he said). And the CEO noted that he didn't understand all the hype over that Facebook investment its top competitor famously landed ("Either the appearance of the transaction or its demise or reconstitution didn't feel like that big a deal.")

What did feel like a big deal was this one transaction in China. Last year Gorman said he "flew to China for a 20-minute meeting and then got on a plane and flew back. It was right for me to do it, and we got the deal."

Morgan Stanley CEO sees more to be done (WSJ)

Filed Under: Finance


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