Morgan Stanley Earnings Call Nuggets: Cost Management and RWA Reduction

Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Cost Management

Guy Moszkowski – Autonomous Research: Handful of questions for you the first one is I think we can see plenty of evidence of the cost management moving towards capturing your $1.6 billion expense targets, but what’s the best way for us to track as we go through the year, your specific progress against the $1.6 billion?

Ruth Porat – EVP and CFO: So, on the $1.6 billion that was based on the calendar year ’12 actual compensation and non-compensation expense as I think you know through 2014 and predicated on a flat revenue scenario. So, we do remain very comfortable with that target. There is some quarterly seasonality, so I think as we go through the year you’ll continue to see progress against the $1.6 billion.

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Guy Moszkowski – Autonomous Research: Is there some way that may be starting with next quarter you could actually track against those baselines, what you’ve actually captured?

Ruth Porat – EVP and CFO: We’ll try and highlight, so you can see the progress as we have in other areas where we’ve laid layout the marker and it continue to hit and exceed the goals.

Guy Moszkowski – Autonomous Research: Moving on to just the whole question of the risk-weighted assets and what we saw happening in the fixed income business more broadly in the quarter. You called out recent commodities as contributing to the year-over-year decline in fixed income revenues, but while we did see the commodities VaR come down quite a bit if we measure year-over-year, the rates VaR was actually up pretty materially. Can you help us square that with both the revenue momentum and with the decline that you called out in terms of the FICC RWAs that got you ahead of your year-end targets by the end of the first quarter?

Ruth Porat – EVP and CFO: Sure. Obviously, couple of questions in that. So within VaR the interest rate line is obviously both interest rate and credit line, and as you noted, was up year-over-year, flat to the last quarter and it’s affected by a couple of things. First and foremost, it’s measure of risk and not necessarily correlated with revenues. It does take up the activity in credit, as you know that I call that out as an area that was quite strong for us both corporate credit and securitized product or mortgage business generally. So it’s a function of the shape of the book and volatility in the market generally. But I think what we’re looking at when you look at the total line is pretty consistent with prior period, prior year. I think you then had another question regarding risk-weighted assets…

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