Inside View: Morgan Stanley

Roberto Rossi, HR Manager of EMEA at Morgan Stanley, explains what MBAs can do to get hired at the leading financial services firm. Roberto sets out the firm's reputation challenges since the crisis.

Roberto Rossi is on a mission to show MBA students that finance careers are just as exciting as the tech and science sectors. The HR Manager of EMEA (non-UK) at Morgan Stanley, the leading investment bank, is scouring business schools for the brightest talent in Europe.

From the UK to Italy to Russia, Roberto, an undergraduate alumnus of SDA Bocconi, is maintaining a strong campus presence. He has just given a talk to prospective Bocconi MBAs in Central London.

And he may have needed to. Less MBAs are pursuing finance jobs in Europe. But the potential rewards still remain enormous; average salaries and bonuses in financial services are close to $110,000 per year for MBAs.

Although Morgan Stanley snap up a raft of undergrads each year, MBAs leapfrog three years ahead to Associate level, one above Analyst – the typical Bachelor’s rank – and one below Vice President, which for MBA front-runners will take about two years to achieve.

A strong technical background is a pre-requisite for a job with the leading financial services firm, but Roberto says a diverse background is appreciated. Previous financial experience is not essential.

Nowadays, it’s not enough to do what your job description asks. MBAs provide flexibility and have a range of different skills, which make them an ideal fit at Morgan Stanley.

Corporate responsibility is a bigger theme at the bank and they have been facing reputational challenges since the financial crisis

Buying into their values will stand you in good stead and reaching out to alumni will also help. But above all, showing a passion for the sector will impress.

What can MBA graduates bring to Morgan Stanley?

Great flexibility and an ability to work and display skills in different fields. Nowadays it’s not enough if you do what your job description asks you to do. Because you need to consider, especially in our industry, what the implications of what you’re doing are. We have compliance issues because the regulators and the rules are becoming much stricter than they used to be. And rightly so.

But you need people who understand what the consequences are. We need people who understand when to loop in the legal people, compliance, tax and whatever. It’s become much more about teamwork.

And having the knowledge and understanding. One cannot know everything, but an understanding of when to consider [difference] aspects [is important]. This is where MBAs really stand out.

You said there is more competition to get new hires – what steps are Morgan Stanley taking to fight for the best graduates?

It’s a matter of what you propose as corporate values or firms’ values in terms of career opportunities, but also what we want to do and what we want to achieve as a company.

And I’m talking of Morgan Stanley here, but I’m sure a lot of competitors are moving in the same direction. It’s not enough, or good, to try and maximize the income, maximize the revenues, at any cost. You need to be aware that there is a good way of achieving results and income, and a less good way to do it.

We are insisting a lot on this matter and [we need to] hire people that share this view because you cannot control everyone; you need to trust that what they do is the right thing.

How have those values changed since the financial crisis?

I think there is more awareness of the concept of risk and the consequences that certain wrong-doing, or let’s say mistakes – human mistakes – can have.

Maybe in certain years they weren’t thought about enough. I think now the approach has changed and rightly so. And I think we need people who are conscious of these consequences.

What background experience is desirable and is experience in finance essential?

It’s not. It’s important to have an interest in the sector, having developed maybe some experience. But we use internships to make sure people understand the world they come to, and we have an opportunity to assess them at an early stage before they are hired. This is a huge tool.

Previous experience is less important. I would even say a diverse background is really appreciated. If people have started in engineering or science or things like that, or have worked in different sectors before, that’s not a problem at all.

Is having alumni in Morgan Stanley an advantage and can people utilize their network during the recruiting phase?

Yeah; the fact that I’m here tonight [at a Bocconi event] is a testament to this. I’m not being contacted through the careers service but through a professor directly. Links remain and give you the opportunity to stay in touch. Bocconi is investing a lot in the alumni network across the board.

So to enhance and increase these relationships, opportunities to contact people who are already in certain sectors gives you access to students with more knowledge.

Does Morgan Stanley still have a strong on-campus presence?

We do – across Europe. I can’t even number them; there are a lot. [They are] in the UK primarily because our main presence in Europe is in the UK, but we target a lot of universities outside of the UK; Italy, Europe, the Middle East and Russia as well.

So wherever we have an office, we have a relationship with one or more top universities there, and we regularly visit the campus and attend recruiting events.

You said it was more difficult to market investment banking as a career option. What challenges have you faced?

We have seen a little bit of a drop in applications since the financial crisis. Banks have been blamed a lot… so it’s a challenge for us. [But] it’s an interesting place to work; it’s a pleasant place and most of the banks have a nice environment internally.

Teamwork is really [important]; it’s not just a brand or a slogan, it’s a real meaning for us. So it’s a matter of engaging with the students and showing them it’s a good place to work, and there are interesting things to do here, as well as sin IT or tech or science places.

Any final tips for MBAs?

Be prepared! A strong technical background is a pre-condition, a basis to start from. In the end we are investment banks, which are very dynamic and very aggressive now – in a positive way. We like seeing people who know the brand, who know what an investment bank does.

Have a little bit of preparation; for example understanding what the trading floor does versus investment banking or asset management. Showing an understanding on that and a true interest in those sectors enhances the possibility to be considered. We like people who have a motivation for that.

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