What pandemic? Morgan Stanley appeared to weather the shutdowns seamlessly, even though CEO James Gorman was diagnosed with the coronavirus in March 2020. Boosted by surging capital markets (and without a consumer business to weigh it down during the lockdowns), revenue rose 16% to $48.2 million. The strong results seem validation of the bank’s decisions to spend billions of dollars doubling down on its brokerage and wealth management segments: In 2020, the bank acquired digital brokerage E*Trade for $13 billion and announced plans to acquire investment management firm Eaton Vance for $7 billion. The company’s upward trajectory hasn’t exactly been consistent, however. The bank lost about $911 million in the first quarter of 2021 owing to the collapse of family office Archegos Capital Management. While the firm still posted a record profit for the quarter, the incident is likely to present further challenges as regulators prod why financiers (including Morgan Stanley) had so much riding on a single client.
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