In this month’s cover story (“Portrait of a Branch Manager”) we profile Gregory Laetsch, the manager of Morgan Stanley’s Los Angeles complex. Jane Wollman Rusoff’s article brings out the genuine qualities of leadership that undoubtedly account for the success of his branches.
Like all branch managers, Laetsch has long and impossibly busy days. He rises at 4:30 a.m. and arrives at work by 6:15 a.m., often not ending his workday until after a business dinner. Yet amid all the management meetings, investment research, communiqués, training of staff, recruitment calls and client interactions, Laetsch finds time for not just for one, but two walk-abouts on all four floors his FAs work on.
You might think that with so much responsibility, the walk-abouts are something he might excise from his daily routine. And yet Laetsch evidently understands that leadership requires regular interaction with those being led. It is only in this way that a leader can be sensitive to his team’s mood, morale and pressing concerns.
In addition to being a man of the people, a leader must have a vision and the ability to get people to follow that vision — even if it is hard for them. Apparently, Laetsch has this quality as well:
“We were early in helping people believe in the return of the equity market. In the toughest of times, when it was difficult emotionally for clients, we were advocating to buy stocks…so they could take advantage when the markets rallied.”
This is not a common trait. When times were toughest, there were armies of brokers selling all manner of expensive “safety” products to frightened clients; there were others who didn’t put up much resistance to panic selling. There is a role for safety, but it takes vision and courage to help clients see beyond immediate catastrophe to a brighter future. The result of this kind of leadership is grateful, and successful, clients over the long term.