March 6, 2013

Morgan Stanley Grabs Merrill IT Exec

Chris Randazzo leaves BofA to support Gorman and team's $500 million tech push

Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman on Fox in last year. (Photo: AP) Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman on Fox in last year. (Photo: AP)

Morgan Stanley (MS) confirmed Wednesday that it hired the Merrill technology leader Chris Randazzo as head of technology for its wealth unit.

Randazzo is filling in for Moira Kilcoyne. The company says that Kilcoyne is taking on “broader responsibility as COO of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management” and hence needs the IT support.

“As you know, we are making a $500 million investment in technology, above and beyond basic running costs, all aimed at enhancing the stability and functionality of our new 3D Platform,” said Greg Fleming, president of the wealth unit in a company memo shared with AdvisorOne that was released Tuesday. “We want our technology to be a competitive advantage … Our scale enables us to make this kind of investment, as well as continue to attract the industry’s most talented technology professionals to carry out our strategy.”

According to Fleming, Randazzo has close to 20 years of technology experience, most recently with Bank of America-Merrill Lynch (BAC).

Morgan Stanley is led by James Gorman, who came to the firm in early 2006, after being at Merrill from 2001 to 2005.

“As a technology leader, Chris has experience across all of the business segments that are strategically important to us: advisory, capital markets and banking/lending … ,” Fleming wrote. “He will join our Executive Committee and partner with all of our senior business leaders to guide our technology platform to the next level.”

Randazzo does not have a precise start date, though Morgan Stanley says he will come on board “in the near future.”

The IT merger of Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney attracted a fair amount of negative press in recent years due to the perceived slow, bumpy nature of the transition of Smith Barney reps to the Morgan Stanley platform. Some industry experts attributed the issues, at least in part, to the use of outside consultants.

The two firms came together via a joint venture in 2009: 51% owned by Morgan Stanley and 49% owned by Citigroup.

In 2012, Morgan Stanley—which has been making a series of layoffs—bought another 14% of the venture and will wrap up the purchase of the remaining 35% stake over the next two years.

As of Dec. 31, the number of financial advisors in the wealth unit was 16,780, down 29 from the prior quarter and off 4% from last year’s tally of 17,512. Average annualized revenue per global representative was $824,000, an improvement of 4% from the prior quarter and 13% from last year.

Rival Merrill Lynch said it had 16,413 traditional advisors, with average annualized revenue of $935,000. 

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