Morgan Stanley dropped only a few spots this year despite virtually flat sales in 2016 and profits that sank more than 2%. In an era where traditional money managers are under pressure to lower fees as they compete with passive funds and “roboadvisors,” Morgan Stanley has doubled down on its wealth management business, now its fastest-growing division and nearly as large as its core brokerage and investment banking unit. Last year it signed deals with 10 tech companies and startups to help bring its financial advisory into the digital age. Still, asset management isn’t as profitable as investment banking, and Morgan Stanley’s return on equity, a widely watched measure of profitability on Wall Street, continues to decline.
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