Dehumanizing Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley is expecting a lot from a piece of paper.

In a recent memo to advisors about the expected $13 billion purchase of E*Trade, management apparently began laying out a case for advisors to ignore their gut instincts and to trust the folks at the top.

As reported by AdvisorHub, the letter, optimistically addressed to advisors as “Dear Colleagues” from Wealth Management head Andy Saperstein, aimed to quell fears that the acquisition of the electronic trading behemoth isn’t a march towards larger-scale automation.

Morgan clients will ostensibly gain access to E*Trade tools, which is all fine and good and may make a few happier, but Saperstein better be Shakespeare if a letter is going to convince advisors that this is good news for them.

We’ve all heard the arguments against large-scale automation before. In the same way self-checkout lanes have become the norm in supermarkets and certain big box stores, the prospect of technology filling human roles seems a no-brainer to management, but ultimately what it does is degrade the customer experience.  Computers on their own rarely “wow” clients with the kind of customer service that wins long-term loyalty or encourages referrals to friends/family members, but their cost is so darn appealing to management.

A proposed “upsell model”, wherein current E*Trade clients opt for access to real live Morgan humans sounds good, but how, why, and at what price?  

E*Trade’s current base of clients didn’t choose the platform because no other options existed. They chose it because it put them in the driver’s seat – which can give a false sense of mastery when the market has done so well the past several years.  These are different types of clients – hard stop. 

You can be assured every other BD will be looking over at Morgan to see how this scenario plays out.  Any shift in position will likely raise eyebrows and leave Morgan advisors wondering when to look out for the bots coming for their books.


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