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James Gorman suggests how to land a job at Morgan Stanley in Asia this year

The post-bonus hiring season is underway in Hong Kong and Singapore. If you want a job at Morgan Stanley, which finished fourth in Dealogic’s IBD revenue table for Asia last year, the next few weeks are (at least in theory) the best time to apply.

But what type of jobs is Morgan Stanley likely to be recruiting for in Asia in 2019? The US bank’s Strategic Update, presented by CEO James Gorman earlier this year, highlights several “growth initiatives” for Morgan Stanley in Asia – and where there’s business expansion, there’s typically hiring. Here’s what the MS update tells us about Asian jobs.

Focus on these four sectors, especially tech

Within its Asian investment bank, Morgan Stanley wants to expand its coverage of four “new economy” sectors: consumer, IT, media and entertainment, and healthcare, according to the firm’s Q1 update. Morgan Stanley isn’t the only bank in Asia likely to hire coverage bankers in these industries, which have become mainstays of Chinese deal-making. There’s growing demand for junior technology and healthcare bankers across the board in Hong Kong as “healthy IPO pipelines require execution talent,” says Stanley Soh, a Hong Kong-based director of financial services solutions. Morgan Stanley’s tech specialists should also have plenty of M&A work to do. The firm’s bankers “expect technology to continue to be a dominant sector in the M&A space”, according to a January blog on the MS website.

Make deals across borders

You won’t get a job at Morgan Stanley on the strength of your Mandarin skills and Chinese market knowledge alone (although these two things will doubtlessly help). Morgan Stanley’s investment bank is also now prioritising cross-border financing in Asia, according to its strategic update. So too are its rivals. Global banks are focused on recruiting junior bankers who can “help Chinese clients to navigate both onshore and offshore deals”, says Shanghai-based IBD headhunter Jason Tan.

Move from Hong Kong to China

In November, UBS became the first foreign bank to win regulatory approval to take a majority stake in its mainland securities joint venture. Credit Suisse, JP Morgan and Nomura have also applied to do the same as China reforms its banking ownership laws. Morgan Stanley made its own application in September to increase its share in its JV, Morgan Stanley Huaxin Securities, from 49% to 51%. Although the MS submission came a few months later than that of its rivals, the firm’s strategic update reconfirms its commitment to “pursue control” of the JV. Foreign banks have long complained that lack of control over their JVs has stifled their expansion plans – and hiring – in China. Majority ownership would give Morgan Stanley the ability to offer more onshore services, which would potentially open up more front-office jobs as a result.

Or cover China from HK if you work in equities

Equities jobs have been cut back in Asia over the past three years as firms including Credit Suisse, Barclays and Deutsche Bank have trimmed their teams. And after markets tanked in the fourth quarter of 2018, equities bonuses have been generally dire. By contrast, Morgan Stanley has singled out equities sales, trading and research as a growth priority. More specifically, it wants to maintain its “leading market position” in trading China-access products through Stock Connect, the programme that allows the Hong Kong stock exchange to directly access shares listed in mainland China. Equities job cuts at Morgan Stanley seem unlikely; hiring may be on the cards instead. The US bank is also expanding its research coverage of Chinese A-shares, suggesting it might need to take on more equities analysts in Hong Kong.

Work with the ultra rich

Morgan Stanley’s Asian franchise isn’t just about trading and investment banking. The US firm’s headcount of Asia-based private bankers shot up by 51 year on year to reach 298 in 2017, one of the largest increases in the industry, according to the latest available data from Asian Private Banker. It appears that expansion wasn’t a one-off. In the only overt reference to Asian recruitment, Morgan Stanley’s strategic update states that the bank will “invest in talent” and grow its client base in the region. It also reconfirms that Morgan Stanley only wants to hire bankers who serve the ultra-high-net-worth sector (forget about applying to MS if your clients are mere single-digit millionaires). Meanwhile, like their counterparts at Credit Suisse and UBS, Morgan Stanley’s private bankers are being encouraged to cross-sell IBD products to their business-owning clients. The bank aims to “strengthen cross-divisional partnerships” this year.

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Image credit: J2R, Getty

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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