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Morgan Stanley’s Christianson to Step Down as APAC Co-CEO

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(Bloomberg) -- Morgan Stanley’s Wei Christianson, who’s overseen its operations in China longer than any of her counterparts at a major U.S. bank, plans to step down at the end of the year.

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The company’s most senior female executive for Asia is retiring as co-chief executive officer for the Asia-Pacific, excluding Japan, but will continue as an advisory director, according to an internal memo seen by Bloomberg. The move will make Gokul Laroia sole CEO for the region, the memo said.

A spokesman at the bank confirmed contents of the document.

A longtime fixture on rankings of the most powerful and influential women in global finance, Christianson, 65, has been instrumental in building Morgan Stanley’s franchise in China, shaping its strategy for Asia and helping the firm tap funds from the region to bolster its finances and weather the 2008 financial crisis. Her departure comes as Wall Street banks are trying to ramp up their expansion in the world’s second-largest economy amid mounting U.S.-China tensions.

Under Christianson, Morgan Stanley severed ties with China’s first Sino-foreign investment bank in 2010. The exit chalked a gain for Morgan Stanley, with the bank estimating at the time that the sale of its 34% stake in Beijing-based CICC to a consortium of major firms would result in a $700 million pretax profit. Morgan Stanley set up its own China securities venture in January 2011 and is now moving closer to taking full control of its securities and fund management ventures in China after announcing plans to boost its stakes in May.

Christianson first worked for Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong from 1998 to 2002, before jumping to Credit Suisse Group AG and then Citigroup Inc. In 2006, Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack, for whom she worked in the past, lured her back and made her CEO for China. The bank promoted her to co-CEO for the broader Asia region in 2011, initially sharing the post with William Strong. He left three years later and was replaced by Laroia.

Laroia, 55, joined Morgan Stanley in India in 1995. He’s worked in Mumbai, New York and Singapore, as well as Hong Kong, where he’s spent the majority of his career. In addition to serving as co-CEO for the region, he’s also co-head of global equities.

He’s one of the few senior Wall Street executives to have led businesses across investment banking, equities and wealth management in multiple Asian markets. The bank has been among the top leaders in equities sales and trading in Asia, and his push for the firm’s wealth operations in the region has produced synergies across the broader platform.

Morgan Stanley Asia had record revenue of $6.75 billion in 2020, a 32% increase from 2019. In the first six months of this year, the bank’s revenue rose 26% $4.1 billion from the year-earlier period.

Christianson played a critical role in the bank’s capital-raising efforts during the financial crisis, engaging China Investment Corp. as an investor in late-2007 and again in 2008. She helped broker a $5 billion stake sale by Morgan Stanley to CIC, the government’s sovereign fund, helped by her ties to former CIC President Gao Xiqing.

“A true leader, culture carrier and a respected and sought-after adviser to global and China clients, Wei has been instrumental in driving our strategy and enhancing our franchise in one of the most complex and important markets for the firm globally,” the bank said in the memo. “She has also been a champion for diversity and inclusion, and a terrific mentor and role model to many colleagues over the years.”

(Updates with background on Laroia in 8th and 9th paragraphs.)

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