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Inside View: Morgan Stanley Investment Banking

Meet Elle Connor, the investment bank's London MBA recruiter

Elle Connor is speaking from her Canary Wharf HQ in London but she spends much of her time scouring the globe for the right MBA talent. Fewer business school graduates flock to banking but applications to Morgan Stanley, the US investment bank, remain robust.

If you want an MBA job at the Wall Street lender’s investment banking division, you’ll be competing with the crème of the crop: Morgan Stanley recruits at the likes of INSEAD, IESE and London Business School.

Luckily, Elle says the bank is beefing up its recruitment of experienced MBA hires. And in this exclusive interview with BusinessBecause, the b-school recruiter reveals what Morgan Stanley seeks in an MBA hire.

Why do you value MBAs?

For us, it’s specifically important that we bring an additional skillset onto the floor. There are split opinions around this at various banks regarding having third-or-fourth-year analysts who have had initial training. But I feel like the MBA profile brings something a little more niche to the floor. And has a more mature approach to certain situations. That’s why we continue to grow our MBA hiring.

We want more of a split of MBAs rather than promoted analysts. I think the split is heavier on the promoted analyst side. We’ll look to balance that out with MBA hiring.

Along with IESE, which business schools do you work with?

IESE remains our target school alongside LBS and INSEAD. We do recruiting on the west coast and in New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia. There’s a 50/50 split of EMEA and US schools.

How many MBAs will Morgan Stanley recruit in 2016?

We take around 20 summer associates every year. And around 30 promoted analysts.

Which areas of investment banking does Morgan Stanley recruit MBAs for?

We reach out for their preferences. We like to get them exposure to the areas they’ve listed. It builds on their network across the whole IBD [investment banking division] floor.

I hear from recruitment firms that M&A is particularly hot right now, but banks are reducing sales and trading hiring. Is this true for Morgan Stanley?

I don’t believe they are reducing too heavily. M&A is always a popular area, especially with the interns. If all 20 came in and said they only wanted to work on M&A, we’d have some issues. But we try to be as flexible as possible.

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Which regions can MBAs work in?

Our program is 10 weeks [long], based in London. A lot of the interns last year thought they may be shadowing [bankers in London] for the first two weeks — but some go to Paris or Dubai to do client meetings — crossing EMEA basically. They should expect to have a global approach and be chucked in the deep end.

As for a permanent position, it would just be for London.

So are multilinguals valued? Which languages are in-demand?

Yes, especially European languages; it’s high on our agenda. Languages is always a top priority. We want to make sure we can service as many clients as possible.

What does Morgan Stanley look for in a resume and background that many candidates might not consider?

We get a lot of questions around: do you need finance experience? The answer is: no. Of course banking [experience] is a preference. But legal and engineering are also top ones as well. We have a lot of consulting applicants as well.

Another one that may not be that obvious is activity in school clubs. We’re not just looking for academics; we look for well-rounded students as well. We want to see that club experience on CVs.

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What is your personal advice for job applicants?

It’s important to make an effort with networking, to make sure they’ve put their name out there, and to show a genuine interest. We make sure we connect with the candidate — it’s not so much about the application. There’s plenty of opportunities to meet us at events, so the team can put a face to a name.

What kinds of skills does Morgan Stanley anticipate needing in the coming years?

Languages will be the key one. It’s a great skill to have to make our floor stronger and to support our clients.

If you speak fluent French and there’s someone else with an identical application, we’ll lean more towards the one who speaks French.

What misconceptions do MBAs have about investment banking careers at Morgan Stanley?

They are a little bit surprised by how much responsibility they are given, and the ability to travel and sit with high-net-worth clients.

Fewer MBAs want to work at investment banks. Has the financial crisis and subsequent regulation, and scandal, made investment banking less appealing to MBAs?

The application numbers remain consistent, but they have tailored off slightly. But it’s not about scandal. And it’s common to many banks. We haven’t noticed a scandal effecting our hiring applications at a certain date.

Are you now competing not just with other banks for hires, but with technology companies too?

Yeah. You get top candidates from business schools that are interested in these areas [tech] as well. What we have looked to do in recent years is reach out to those students, and do more generalist events that aren’t specifically about investment banking. It’s high on our agenda next year to do some more open forums about what Morgan Stanley offers as a career.

What has Morgan Stanley done to make itself more appealing to MBA candidates? 

It’s not a secret that investment banking is a challenging career. We’ve made sure there are opportunities to improve the work life balance. It’s not a hidden secret that investment banking is long hours, but we try to make sure there’s more flexibility that 10-15 years ago.

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