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Morgan Stanley: As good as it gets?

US firm is firing on all cylinders - even if its returns are nothing to write home about

Whichever way you look at it, Morgan Stanley had a successful 2017

In almost every business line, its performance improved. Market shares grew or were maintained. At various points during the year, its market capitalization overtook that of its arch-rival Goldman Sachs, which would have been unthinkable even a couple of years ago.

Chief executive James Gorman always writes out by hand a list of 10 things he wants to achieve in the year ahead. You suspect that, as the year drew to a close, sitting in his office high above New York’s Times Square, he put a tick in the margin against most of those aims for 2017. 

Investors seem to like what they are seeing too. Morgan Stanley’s share price is up around 20% on the year, with its market cap nearing the $100 billion mark, trebling in the last five years, and its stock is now trading at 1.3 times book. 

“The stock market is validating our strategy and we are absolutely committed to that strategy,” says Morgan Stanley president Colm Kelleher.

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