Ruth Porat

So Morgan Stanley announced earnings today and people are sad because FICC trading wasn’t so hot. Asset management and wealth management are okay though? Anyway here’s a guy:

“The fixed-income rebuild hasn’t worked as well as they had hoped,” David Trone, an analyst with JMP Securities LLC in New York, said in a Bloomberg Radio interview. “They want to be more of an asset-gathering institution that also does investment banking and a little bit of trading. They’re not yet really to the point where they’ve convinced all of us what they are yet.”

One way to think about Morgan Stanley is that it’s a big room full of people who invest (or, trade with) other people’s money.1 That money finds its way into Morgan Stanley’s hands in different ways, and those ways change (slowly) over time. Some of it comes from individual investors whose wealth Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management manages, globally. Some of it is from mutual funds and institutional assets managed by Morgan Stanley Asset Management. Some of it is from shareholders. Some of it is bank deposits. Quite a bit of it is repo and whatnot.

Here’s the mix of where it comes from over the past few years:2

This is pretty unscientific, and Morgan Stanley’s ability and desire to do stuff with its repo funding differs from its ability and desire to do stuff with non-fee-earning client cash. Still you can see some trends there I guess? Read more »

  • 18 Oct 2012 at 1:15 PM
  • Banks

Morgan Stanley Now 23% Safer

A value-at-risk model basically works like this. You have some stuff, which is worth X today. Tomorrow it will be worth X + Y, where Y ranges from more or less negative infinity to positive infinity. Y is a function of a bunch of correlated random variables, rates and credit and stock prices and general whatnot. You look at a distribution of moves in those variables and take (usually) a 2-standard deviation daily move; if 95% of the time rates move by -10 to +10 basis points, your VaR model will assume a -10bp or +10bp move, whichever is bad for you. You take the 95%-worst-case, taking into account correlation etc., and tot up how much you’d lose in that case. Then you write that number down and feel a bit better, since you’ve sort of implicitly replaced “we have $X today and will have some number between negative and positive infinity tomorrow” with “we have $X today and will have some number between ($X – VaR) and positive infinity tomorrow,” though of course the first statement is true but unhelpful and the second is not true and also unhelpful.

But that aside! You get your VaR from a distribution of your variables, but the obvious question is what distribution. A good answer would be like “the distribution of those variables over the next three months,” say, for quarterly reporting, but of course that is only a good answer because it begs the question; if you knew what would happen over the next three months you would, one assume, always end those three months with more than $X and this VaR thing would be moot or moot-ish.1

So instead you look at things that you think will allow you to predict that future distribution as accurately as possible, which is epistemically troubling since VaR is a measure of how inaccurate your predictions might turn out to be. Anyway! You pick a distribution of variables based on the sort of stuff that you always use to estimate future distributions in your future-distribution-estimating business, which could mean distributions implied by market prices (e.g. option implied vol) but which seems to mostly mean historical distributions. You look at the last N days of data and assume that the world will be similarly distributed in the following M days, because really what else is there to do.

Picking the number of days to use is hard because, one, this is in some strict sense a nonsense endeavor, but also two, the world changes over time, so looking back one year is for instance rather different from looking back four years. Here is how different: Read more »

In addition to the whole “help turn Morgan Stanley around” task, Ruth Porat, who was named CFO last January, has another entry on her to do list: don’t get unceremoniously canned like your girlfriends. “Be careful in everything you do, because we all know how this ended before,” an analyst told her at a cocktail party earlier this year, the insinuation being that she ought to avoid getting fired from Lehman Brothers, forced to take a leave of absence from Credit Suisse, and ultimately spend her days taking spin classes and dating a firefighter in the Hamptons, like Erin Callan, or getting the bootskie from Vikram Pandit, like Sallie Krawcheck.

Porat may have gone from a client-facing banker job to a “technical” one where you have to, as Glen Schorr puts it, “know everything about everything,” without ever working in a finance department but forget about “numbers” for a second. This lady doesn’t have any quit in her, and has shown that crippling back pain or even labor contractions are mere speed bumps that will not in any way hamper her from doing what she has set out to do, unlike her male counterparts who would be crying for a heating pad at the first spasm or an epidural the second their water broke. Read more »