Morgan Stanley Targets Technology Layoffs

Just over a week since Morgan Stanley’s redundancies were first reported, and it’s becoming clearer who the 1,500 layoffs affected. Those at the sharp end of the proverbial stick seem to have worked on the firm’s technology teams… in particular, the technology managing directors (MDs) and executive directors (EDs).

Morgan Stanley isn’t commenting on the cuts, but insiders say they involved a large number of MDs in the bank’s technology ranks. It’s the biggest restructuring of the team in years. “Technology was hardest hit. This was the worst RIF [reduction in force] in my whole time there,” says one MD who was put at risk. “A lot of experience walked out the door.”

Sources say that at least one individual was told he could keep his job if he moved to Mumbai: “This was a restructuring, not just a culling of people who weren’t performing… A lot of the people at risk are very senior and very good.”

Some of the MDs at risk are understood to include: David Harding, Morgan Stanley’s international technology COO in London, who joined the bank in 2005; Jess Hainey, London-based head of Product Reference Data Technology, who’d been at the bank since 2000 and was considered a star in the tech function; Olivier Masdebrieu in Hong Kong, who’d been at the bank 23 years; Louella San Juan, the New York-based head of Agile enablement who joined in 1998; Chris Woodward, head of Agile operating model design, who joined five years ago from Trafigura; Sundeep Kripalani, the New York head of global operations technology, who joined from Credit Suisse in 2015; and Anna Harrison in New York, who joined over 25 years ago.

At the ED and vice-president level, cuts are understood to include: Joseph Henriques, program manager for the securities financing transactions regulation, who worked at Morgan Stanley for eight years; Nabina Shrestha in prime brokerage technology (after 19 years); Dov Levy in securities lending technology (also after 19 years); Sam Fawcett, the former finance technology chief of staff (after 20 years); Jonathan Reed in equity derivatives technology (after 21 years); Leslie Cameron (after 23 years); Hilary Strong in London operations technology (after 10 years); and Meryl Klein in New York (after 27 years). 

Morgan Stanley did not confirm the names above, and none of the individuals listed responded to a request to clarify their situations. As they are only at risk and haven’t actually left, they could still stay with the bank.

Many of those at risk have spent their entire careers at Morgan Stanley, and some confessed to a sense of disorientation. “They seemed to target more senior employees,” said one. 

When the redundancies were first flagged last week, one unnamed Morgan Stanley source described them as “robust cost management.” Those let go said they were unclear why the cuts were so heavily focused on technology, but several people attributed them to Rob Rooney, the former head of fixed income sales and trading who was appointed head of technology for the bank in 2018. Rooney has set about modernizing Morgan Stanley’s technology function, and is encouraging the adoption of Agile methodologies (apparently with help from outside consultants). In 2015, Rooney cut 25 percent of staff from the fixed income division. The feeling at Morgan Stanley is that he’s now working the same vein in the company’s tech.

A modified version of this article appeared on eFinancialCareers.