- Some of Morgan Stanley’s financial advisers started heading back to roughly 50 of its 591 branches across the US last week, equipped with pandemic-era tools like hand sanitizer and touchless smart keys.
- After finding how speedy some meetings could be with clients and outside companies, like some asset managers, some interactions may be moved to phone or Zoom calls after more locations are open.
- The firm is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data on which locations qualify to reopen, and has also surveyed advisers to gauge their interest in heading back, a person familiar said.
- For more stories, subscribe to our Wall Street Insider newsletter.
Some of Morgan Stanley‘s 15,432 financial advisers are starting to head back to their offices across the US after the pandemic spurred months of remote work, and the firm is readying its staff with new protocols and coronavirus-era tools like thermometers and hand sanitizer.
The firm, which is based in New York City and has its wealth management headquarters in the city suburb of Purchase, New York, last week opened roughly 50 of its 591 branches across the country.
The branches’ eligibility was gleaned from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention infection data, and the business also surveyed its advisers on their interest in returning to the office. Advisers were generally eager in getting back to their branches, a person familiar with the matter said. Morgan Stanley will not require them to return to the office.
The branches that opened were largely based in Western and Southern areas of the country, the person said. A Morgan Stanley Wealth Management spokesperson declined to provide a detailed list of branch locations that are now open.
The firm is providing advisers who have been cooped up for months and stuck meeting with clients over video conferencing care packs, the person said, which are filled with items including face masks, hand sanitizer, thermometers, and touchless “smart keys” that promote distance between a person’s hand and a door’s lock.
Plus, advisers returning to the office will have to attest that they took their temperature each morning (one method that can detect the virus in a person), and will be mandated to wear masks when they are away from their desks. At some locations, advisers may also have thermal screening available.
The plans from Morgan Stanley, which has the largest wealth management operation in the US by assets under management with some $2.4 trillion in client assets as of March 31, shows how mammoth financial services firms are executing on their intricate guidelines for heading back to the office: gradually, methodically, and with lots of Purell.
The firm has had to be dynamic. In early March, the bank shuffled roughly half of its institutional-securities traders to its disaster-recovery site in Purchase, Business Insider reported on March 5.
Morgan Stanley’s Manhattan headquarters has started to reopen for some staffers in other divisions. But that building, at 1585 Broadway near Times Square, is not considered one of the offices reopening for wealth management, a spokesperson said.
Meanwhile the firm’s Purchase office will start to reopen after the July 4th holiday, the person said. That plan was earlier reported by the website AdvisorHub, which cited a person familiar with the matter.
James Gorman, the bank’s chief executive, said on May 21 during its annual shareholder meeting that some 90% of employees — “whether they’re associates or vice presidents or managing directors or in any form or function all over the world” — were working from home, according to a transcript on the platform Sentieo.
Like other firms, the number of employees back in the office varies wildly by geographic location and other factors. For instance, in New York City, “where I am, it’s a very, very, very small number,” Gorman said during the virtual meeting.
He would not expect “at all,” for all of its 60,670 global employees to be back in the office this year, and expects roughly half will be back by the end of 2020.
Speedier meetings in store
Like other firms, Morgan Stanley’s sprawling wealth management business is reevaluating how it handles some activity, like meetings with clients and outside businesses.
After all, events have become more efficient as commutes and traveling are cut out of the equation and advisers meander a few steps from their couches to their desks to speak with clients.
Some administrative and oversight functions that used to take place in branches may now stay remote, the person familiar with the matter said.
The way the division works with some outside vendors, like asset management wholesalers, may also change in a way that creates a more efficient process.
For instance, some instructional meetings with companies who want to wholesale their products with Morgan Stanley’s advisers, which usually take place in-person during a pitch in a branch, can now take place over Zoom.
Or if an alternative asset manager is pitching a complex product for which only some advisers’ clients qualify, the process of finding those advisers and clients could become more efficient in holding meetings over the phone, the person said.
- Wealth managers can no longer take clients on splashy outings or events because of the pandemic. Here’s what they’re doing instead to keep their richest clients happy.
- E-Trade is staffing up its stock plan business as it sees a boost in demand. The unit is a key part of why Morgan Stanley is buying the giant discount brokerage.
- The biggest US wealth firms won’t disclose adviser racial diversity data despite renewing commitments to make their mostly white adviser forces more inclusive