Q&A with Mandell Crawley, Global CMO, Morgan Stanley

Interbrand's CMO, Andrea Sullivan, sat down with Morgan Stanley’s Global CMO, Mandell Crawley, to discuss recruitment strategy in the post-financial crisis era. Andrea Sullivan—interviewer (AS) Mandell Crawley—Interviewee (MC)

AS: There is a war for talent, across many industries these days. What is Morgan Stanley doing to attract the best and the brightest? And what role do you think the brand plays in recruitment?

MC: First, we are refreshing our messaging so that it’s more relevant to the global marketplace. “Capital Creates” essentially tells the firm’s story—a story that’s consistent with both who we are and what our strategy is comprised of: We advise, originate, trade and manage/distribute capital for governments, institutions and individuals—and we try to do so with a standard of excellence. It’s about putting clients first, doing the right thing, leading with exceptional ideas and, of course, giving back.

It’s communicating to the marketplace that, over the past five years, our business model has been transforming. In that sense, we think we’re a bit unique in the industry since it remains, as you know, incredibly challenged from a reputational perspective.

It is critically important for that narrative to resonate with prospective talent and to give recruits a positive sense of the firm’s culture. And we’re updating our message accordingly, especially in terms of on-campus work and our efforts to reach Millennials who, as studies have shown, want to be a part of something big and change the world.

So, we’re spotlighting the role Morgan Stanley plays in society’s broader ecosystem, how we help mobilize capital, and how that activates structural change across society. The industry, as a whole, hasn’t told that story well, but we see an opportunity to show how banking impacts the world in really exciting ways.

AS: For top talent, especially those who want to change the world, how do you convince them that going into investment banking is the right opportunity?  

MC: There is a disconnect between the perception and the overall narrative around talent in the industry versus reality. What I mean is that demand for opportunities at this firm is still robust. Case in point: In 2014, Morgan Stanley received more than 100,000  applications for our analyst and associate positions. Another important stat is that, among those to whom we extended an offer, more than 80 percent of candidates accepted.

Yet the news seems to be reporting a different story—a “brain drain” from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. Stories like this contribute to the perception that banking is not the prime destination for top talent it used to be, but the facts, as I stated earlier, say otherwise. Still, I do think it is important for us to improve how we communicate the benefits of working in the financial services industry and the role you can truly play to bring change to society across verticals—including technology, media, and infrastructure.

AS: How do you think having a strong brand in this industry helps with recruiting, especially in light of the reputational issues we’ve discussed?

MC: Having worked at Morgan Stanley for more than 23 years, there is one thing I can say is true about this firm: To know us is to love us. When candidates get a chance to meet us and experience our culture, they love us. But the broader industry continues to struggle and hasn’t fully recovered from the reputational damage incurred by the financial crisis.

So, one challenge to our brand relates to the industry’s issues as a whole. The other challenge, as our research has revealed, is that Morgan Stanley is a bit undifferentiated. Especially in the U.S., there is a sea of sameness when you look at the industry and its big players—Goldman, Merrell, UBS, Wells Fargo and, of course, Morgan Stanley.  We’re doing many things to change that, to define ourselves better—and I think the Capital Creates campaign will play a key role in that effort.

AS: Morgan Stanley hasn’t historically had a campaign. Why now?

MC: Capital Creates is an extension of the hard work we’ve done to transform our business, but I also view it as an opportunity for us to get credit for the fact that so much of that work ties back to the values we embody. We’re not compromising who we are. We play a role in the capital markets and it is a role we’re proud to play. It is the lifeblood of all kinds of activities that are moving society forward, spurring innovation, and improving lives in all sorts of ways. In addition to our core function and all the prosperity it enables, we also do our part to ensure a healthier, more sustainable world, which includes our Healthy Cities program, the Morgan Stanley Foundation, and the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. I view Corporate Citizenship as yet another lever in helping to shift our reputation and differentiate us in an industry that remains challenged from a reputational perspective.

AS: How have you evolved your engagement strategy for talent?

MC: Demand is still very strong and acceptance levels are high, but we don’t want to get caught flat-footed as things shift. So modernizing the message, taking Capital Creates to campuses and leveraging that are all key parts of our strategy. We’re asking: What are you willing to create? What are you hoping to change in your life? We’re inviting them to join Morgan Stanley, rise to the challenge, and be a part of something bigger.

The other thing we’re doing that we hadn’t done much in the past is putting the spotlight on talent that’s already here. There’s a big myth that to come into finance you have to major in finance or economics. So, putting the spotlight on talent, and even on some of our leadership team members—some of whom majored in literature, history, or other disciplines that don’t necessarily tie to finance and economics—allows us to reach people who might not think they’re a fit for our organization, but who, in fact, could excel here. We’re also going to be giving our analysts and associates more opportunities to tell their stories and relate what they’ve been able to accomplish since joining Morgan Stanley.

As far as my observations go, gone are the days when companies could just send an older individual onto a campus, preferably an alumni, to make the pitch to prospective recruits. We’ve got to refresh the method and the message. Digital has got to be part of the experience; it’s got to be modern in every respect, and there must be consistency in your message at all the different touchpoints where aspirants will engage with the firm.

AS: What role does thought leadership play in your approach to recruitment?

MC: I believe thought leadership and leading with exceptional ideas is something that matters to young talent. When I think about the intellectual horsepower we have here at Morgan Stanley and our ability to go incredibly deep in verticals that matter to society—not just in finance, but also in areas like technology, healthcare, infrastructure, and environmental sustainability—we really have so much intellectual capital to offer. For people who have skills and knowledge in these areas, coming here and being able to apply their passion to these sectors, whether in terms of research or investment strategy, could be really fulfilling. But we’ve got to do a better job of telling that story—that it’s not just about banking, net interest, income, and PBT. Our business is so big, diverse, and complex that there really all kinds of opportunities to do many different things. There’s a lot of intellectual stimulation that happens in a place like this.

AS: What does the future look like?

MC: Bill Gates once said that people tend to overestimate the change over the next two years, but underestimate how drastic the change can be over the next 10 years.

One of the things we’ve been thinking about is how we can build out a platform where we put the spotlight on our thought leadership across the verticals I mentioned earlier.

With leading industry analysts like Katy Huberty on board, we can credibly share our perspectives on things like autonomous cars or wearables, for example. So, we’re already in the thought leadership game, but I think there is an opportunity for us to truly leverage our intellectual capital in a better way. If we do, I think that will resonate with individuals who are on the fence about whether they want to explore a career in financial services.

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