Morgan Stanley resumes face-to-face meetings, cites ‘Zoom fatigue’

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Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman doesn’t just want his bankers back in the office — he wants them meeting with clients and investors, too.

The hard-charging Wall Street boss — who earlier this week told the rank-and-file he expects them to be at their desks by Labor Day or face a pay cut — is meanwhile sending a similar message to the bank’s investors and clients: Zoom is out, and face-to-face meetings are in.

In a Thursday memo obtained by The Post, Morgan Stanley execs revealed that earlier this week they began hosting clients — including two unnamed large-cap corporations — at the bank’s 1585 Broadway headquarters — and added that they’re just getting started.

“We ripped the bandage at Morgan Stanley and took some investors to a HQ visit last week,” a Morgan Stanley executive said in the memo. “Everyone will have their own timeline and will do things when it feels right, but I have to say that if felt good to see IRs and investors together again.”

The executive at Morgan Stanley’s “corporate access desk” added that “Other events are in the pipeline,” but did not elaborate.

Corporate access desks serve as a matchmaker on Wall Street by connecting public companies and possible investors. Morgan Stanley’s desk is one of the biggest on the Street and offers the bank a unique role to encourage investors and companies alike to get back to work.

The bank conceded that some virtual elements of communication are here to stay, but noted that “Zoom fatigue is being felt by both corporates and investors” and “in-person meetings are essential to ensure an investor believes a company’s narrative.”

Executives at Morgan Stanley sent out a memo this week signaling they were ready to meet in person again, and ask them to fill out a survey detailing how they felt.
AFP via Getty Images

But some feel the banking behemoth is using its perch as a bully pulpit.

As the bank embraces the return to the office, some people viewed the note as an unwelcome nudge that they must resume pre-pandemic lives of excessive business travel, meetings, and conferences.

One person told The Post he now feels like he is lagging behind since Morgan Stanley has already resumed in-person meetings with renewed vigor and he hasn’t done any in-person meetings.

Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

The memo comes just days after Gorman made headlines for slamming employees unwilling to get back to the office.

“Make no mistake about it. We do our work inside Morgan Stanley offices, and that’s where we teach, that’s where our interns learn, that’s how we develop people,” Gorman said Monday during the firm’s annual U.S. Financials, Payments & CRE conference from the bank’s Midtown office, which was held virtually this year.

“If you can go into a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office,” he said.

A director is seen having an online meeting with his employees through an online Zoom call.
Morgan Stanley said in its Thursday memo that “Zoom fatigue” was among the reasons it has decided to resume face-to-face meetings with clients.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

At the end of the Thursday memo, Morgan Stanley attached a survey looking to gauge respondents’ willingness to travel to conferences, the bank’s headquarters and small-venue group meetings. It also asked clients about their comfort with domestic and international air travel.

In addition, Morgan Stanley asked if respondents would be willing to attend “marquee conferences” as soon as this year including the Asia Pacific Summit hosted in Singapore in November, the European TMT Conference hosted in Barcelona in November and the Global Consumer Conference hosted in NYC in December.

It’s unclear if the bank will decide to host the events — and if they do whether attendance will be limited or coronavirus restrictions will be implemented.

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