Wall Street’s most closely watched succession race—for Morgan Stanley’s CEO job—finally has a winner
Morgan Stanley selected Ted Pick to become its new chief executive officer, succeeding James Gorman after a 14-year run that reshaped the US bank.
Pick, a co-president and three-decade veteran of the firm, will be elevated to the top role in January and join the board, the bank said in a statement Wednesday. Gorman, 65, will stay on as executive chairman.
In tapping Pick, 54, the firm is turning to the man credited with spurring a revival in its trading business after a perilous stretch during the 2008 financial crisis — a period when clients ditched Morgan Stanley and doubts about its ability to survive reverberated around Wall Street.
The Australian-born Gorman, once a surprise choice for CEO, rescued the bank from that near collapse and engineered a multi-year transformation with wealth management at its core. That strategic overhaul was accelerated by two signature deals announced in 2020, turning Morgan Stanley into a money-management powerhouse barreling toward a $10 trillion goal — and catapulting its market value above that of archrival Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
“The board’s selection of Ted Pick is an outstanding one,” Gorman said in the statement. “He is battle-tested, understands complex risk, and works very effectively not just in the US, but around the globe. In short, he is an outstanding executive and leader.”
Pick beat out two other contenders — co-president Andy Saperstein and Dan Simkowitz, who has led investment management. Morgan Stanley said Wednesday that Saperstein will become head of wealth and investment management and named Simkowitz co-president and head of institutional securities.
“Morgan Stanley is a storied institution, and I am deeply honored to have been chosen to lead it,” Pick said in the statement. “Thanks to James’ excellent leadership, our firm is now well-positioned to succeed across market cycles, and I am excited about the opportunities for future growth.”
The succession saga at the New York-based bank has played out methodically — and somewhat publicly — since Gorman’s chief deputy Colm Kelleher exited in 2019. Soon after, Gorman unveiled the biggest leadership shakeup in a decade, positioning a small group of lieutenants as his most likely successors. One of them, Jon Pruzan, exited earlier this year to be president at Don Mullen’s investment firm Pretium.
Gorman said in May that he intended to step down within a year, setting off the final three-way race. Pick was viewed as the most likely heir to Gorman, thanks to his role overseeing the more complex institutional securities business — which until recently was also the more dominant division. But with the bank’s recent acquisitions, the wealth-management unit has been capturing a bigger piece of the revenue pie, helping lift the prospects of Saperstein, who runs that arm.
“As co-presidents of Morgan Stanley, Andy and Dan will be invaluable leaders in helping Ted manage the firm,” Gorman said.
Gorman has maintained that the next CEO doesn’t necessarily have to run the biggest business. “A lot of people focus on what business you’re running and whether a business is doing well or not,” he said earlier this year. “Well, if that were the criteria, I wouldn’t have got the job because I was running the smallest and worst-performing business.”
Once known for his colorful vocabulary, Pick has made Morgan Stanley his lifelong home — except for a stint in business school. He ascended through the ranks after a less salubrious start — as the last person hired into his analyst class — and his early rise was tied to his role as a capital-markets banker, helping companies raise money by selling stock. But that changed after 2008.
Then, he was thrust into leading the equities unit at a time when the bank was hemorrhaging clients. Under Pick, the unit went from hobbled to healthy, and even surged past competitors to a No. 1 ranking. After his success in equities, he got another challenge: resuscitate the fixed-income division, the bank’s perennial sick child that struggled to keep pace with larger rivals. The division’s recovery since then is touted as a success story by the bank’s leadership.
But the trading business has also suffered some black eyes. The prime brokerage division that Pick helped build into Morgan Stanley’s crown jewel got caught wrong-footed in 2021, when Bill Hwang’s Archegos Capital Management collapsed. The revelation that Morgan Stanley lost $911 million on dealings with the family office outed it as US banking’s biggest loser in the debacle. The bank also recently disclosed it’s in conversations with US prosecutors to resolve a probe into its block trading practices — a business that falls under Pick’s command.
The more pressing challenge for Pick will be to restore market share in the investment bank, after ceding ground to both Goldman and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The firm is waiting on a rebound in capital markets and dealmaking activity to help revive earnings in that business from depressed levels. At the same time, investors who had been heaping praise on its wealth unit are now seeking assurance that it can continue to gather assets at a rapid clip.
Pick will be able to lean on Gorman, who has indicated he wants to help with the transition without specifying how long he plans to stay as chairman. When Gorman was made CEO in 2010, his predecessor John Mack held the role of chairman for two years before handing over that title to Gorman as well.