Chris Roth is a Managing Director and Head of Global Credit Investing for Morgan Stanley Investment Management. During his tenure at the firm, he has been a fixed income analyst and portfolio manager on desks in Philadelphia, London and New York. He holds a B.S. degree in economics and finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
My functional title is portfolio manager, but as global head of credit investing I help lead a team of more than 30 analysts, portfolio managers and traders in New York, London, Singapore and Tokyo. The role is a truly global one.
I spend most of my time thinking about how our clients’ portfolios are positioned. My contribution is more strategic, focusing on factors such as the attractiveness of investment grade and high yield credit as well as interest rates and currency. That said, I still love the detailed security selection discussions and debates that help us build portfolios from the bottom up.
Going from a domestic to global-oriented job has been an important facet of my professional career. I began my career at Morgan Stanley as a credit analyst in suburban Philadelphia. I moved to London in 1999 to work on the firm’s global bond team, and then came to New York after the financial crisis to focus on global investment capabilities.
The firm has a global client base, so for me it’s been about developing a deep knowledge of client needs and issues. I can also say that the global travel has been personally and professionally satisfying. I’m not even sure if I owned a passport before I joined Morgan Stanley.
I just returned from a trip to Switzerland. We’ve been pretty successful in building our business there over the last couple of years. It’s a new market and the first year or two of our presence was all about relationship building. It’s a process that we’ve been able to implement in a number of markets across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, including Australia.
How has your process changed in the past 5 – 10 years with advances in technology and increasing availability of information?
From investment analysis to portfolio analysis to risk management, the intensity of technology has increased exponentially. And really, the access to information is the biggest change.
Not too long ago, we received company financial statements in the mail. Then we’d use spreadsheets to build our financial analysis from the bottom up. Today we use state-of-the-art risk management tools for many facets of investing that we would have done manually in the past.
Back in the 1990s, we actually built our very first fixed income trading system. Now we’re on a state-of-the-art trading platform that offers robust trade processing, compliance, risk and portfolio management. The platform is one way we ensure that we adhere to portfolio guidelines and that securities are allocated correctly across client accounts.
From an investment perspective, every day is a new day. There are new events every day that require us to challenge our thinking and analyze implications for investment markets, whether it’s the future of the eurozone or the implications of a major merger. The thrill is the fact that any new piece of information can have profound implications for the investments we make.
In institutional asset management, we have a meaningful amount of client relationships that involve managing the investment savings of many individual investors through a fund or retirement plan. I enjoy helping these clients solve investment challenges and seeing our clients happy with the results.
I’m most proud of the team we’ve built. A number of senior people on our team have been here ten years or more, and I played a role in recruiting many of those individuals to Morgan Stanley Investment Management. To see them develop from junior positions to senior roles has really been gratifying.
Growing up, some of my sports heroes were people like Bobby Orr and Bobby Clarke. They were players who built their entire career on one team. And, really, they became better players because of the teamwork they built. On our team, we have an immense amount of trust, confidence and respect for each other which helps us manage through any tough times or market crises.
I’ve been with Morgan Stanley for twenty-five years and that idea of a partnership culture – the notions of teamwork, respect and collegial relationships -- still exists. We manage portfolios as a team.
Absolutely. I think the structure and longevity of the team we’ve built has provided many opportunities for mentoring, although I’d say in a more informal way. When I look back at my career, two individuals in particular have been mentors to me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back at the impact they have had on me, I would say the mentoring happened more organically. That’s the kind of mentoring approach I bring to new team members who are excited to be a part of the Morgan Stanley family.