Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) CEO James Gorman told Bloomberg Television's Erik Schatzker on "Market Makers" today that he's encouraged by Merrill Lynch's higher profit margin: "It's great news, because it's proof positive that doubling up in this space was a smart thing to do…I always like to see somebody out there who's setting a higher bar as a demonstration of what can be done."
On the banking industry, Gorman said, "I think things are pretty rational right now to be honest. I've been in and around the industry for 25 years. It is a sober environment that we operate in. The leadership of the banks, all of whom I know pretty well, are very sober quality professional people. I don't see a lot of holes at the large institutions in terms of rational behavior at all."
Morgan Stanley CEO on what stands out Morgan Stanley's most meaningful achievement in Q2:
"Firstly, it was very steady. One of the things this management team has focused on is giving deliberate, predictable results for the marketplace. So we're very pleased with that. But the standouts on the business performance--institutional equities was a total blowout. They had a phenomenal quarter. $1.8B in revenues. Best quarter--it's been a business that has been doing great for a long time, but it had an absolute blowout. Wealth management margins, 5th quarter in a row, 18.5%. And in fixed income, bringing down the risk-weighted assets--we are below where we were in the first quarter, which was below the year-end target at $237-239 billion. A lot of good news, but not perfect. This is a continuous journey, but a lot of good news."
Morgan Stanley CEO On whether a blowout is sustainable:
"I think it is very broad based. If you look at equities performance by region and product, it was very strong. Prime brokerage was very strong. Cash equities was very strong. The derivatives business was strong. It was strong in asia, japan, strong in Europe and strong here. It was a good performance, no question about it."
Morgan Stanley CEO On weaknesses:
"Sure, there are always weaknesses, unhappily. Our ROE is not where we want it to be. We are on that journey, but it's not where we need it to be or not where we want it to be…That wasn't disappointing -- that's clearly a function of where we are in this turnaround of the institution. It was well understood, but not where our aspiration is. On comp expenses we're up a couple of hundred million. We took some extra reserves relating to litigation as we have to. There is litigation coming out of the financial crisis that all of the banks are now dealing with. Fixed income recovered materially from the second quarter of last year, but isn't we want our fixed income business to be or will be."
Morgan Stanley CEO On the brokerage business and whether he can get the pretax margin up to 20% if Q3 is as good as Q2:
"I'm less focused on which quarter that happens in, but it will happen…investors are inpatient. By their nature and design, they want results to exceed always. We laid out some targets a couple of years ago and we were premature. We got ahead of ourselves coming into a very long extended zero interest rate environment with a depressed equities market. The equities market has recovered. We laid out new targets at 15%. We obviously just exceeded those. We laid out targets a couple months ago that we could get to 20 and ultimately above that. And we will."
Morgan Stanley CEO On what Merrill Lynch is doing that Morgan Stanley should be doing more of:
"Firstly, it is great news because it is proof positive that doubling up in this space was a smart thing to do. I always like to see somebody out there who is setting a higher bar as a demonstration of what can be done. Secondly, it's a much more mature business. The whole banking strategy originated when I was running the business back in 2000. The retail business. It has had 13 years and we have had a couple of years. There are some material differences of where we are in the cycle but what I like is the slope of the gradient."
Morgan Stanley CEO On Morgan Stanley's fixed income business and the axiom that size matters:
"Back to the size matters axiom. We have outperformed all the institutions that are larger than us year to date in terms of the aggregate stock price performance. Size matters to the extent that you need to be at scale. If you have a global multi product business, as we do with credit rates, foreign exchange, securitized credit across the whole spectrum -- if you have that business, you need to be at a certain scale to get there. We are at that scale. We are comfortable with that. Beyond that,