Profile

Jessica Alsford

Managing Director, Head of Morgan Stanley's Sustainable + Responsible Investment Research Team

Introduction

Jessica Alsford is a Managing Director and Head of Morgan Stanley's Sustainable + Responsible Investment Research Team. Jessica joined the firm in 2005 and spent five years co-heading the Business Services team within Equity Research. In 2010, the team was ranked second in the Institutional Investor and Extel surveys. Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, Jessica was an equity research analyst at Cazenove. She holds an M.A. in social and political sciences from the University of Cambridge and is a CFA charter holder.

Describe your current role at the firm and your responsibilities.

As Head of Morgan Stanley's Sustainable + Responsible Investment Research Team, I evaluate all the sectors covered by our Equity Research Divisions to assess how different environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors might impact company valuations, either positively or negatively. Under this ESG perspective, we consider topics such as climate change, resource efficiency, human capital, supply chain management, health and wellness, and management incentivization. We believe that this approach can provide investors with an additional layer of analysis to ultimately enhance investment decisions.

Institutional investors are increasingly adopting sustainable investing practices, whether this be through specific thematic funds or ESG integration across all assets under management. Our analysis helps these investors to execute on their desired approach to sustainable investing.

How does Morgan Stanley identify emerging trends within ESG?

All of our reports are written in collaboration with the Equity Research stock analysts. There is a lot of reading and thinking about future trends, and I have to stay on top of the news across all sectors in order to understand what drives a business and then think about the risks that may affect its value. We need to know something about a lot of different topics in order to be able to analyze how trends may develop. I also spend a lot of time meeting with industry experts, speaking to our clients and engaging different parts of the firm that are also focused on sustainability issues.

How does Morgan Stanley promote an entrepreneurial spirit within a large firm?

There is certainly no predictable path of progression here but opportunities arise consistently. You are encouraged to take these new opportunities and make the most of it, with the full support of the firm and your colleagues.

I joined Morgan Stanley as an associate on the Transport team in Equity Research in London. My responsibilities quickly increased to include stock coverage and then just a year after that, I was asked to help create a new research team focused on the Business Services sector. I took advantage of that opportunity to develop and run that team for the next five years.

I heard about my current position while I was on maternity leave. When I returned to work, I took on the challenge to build a completely new business within the firm.

How has Morgan Stanley supported your career goals?

In my 10 years at the firm, I’ve had a varied, challenging career that has allowed me to accomplish many things, with new goals consistently placed in front of me. I always took great comfort in knowing that, whatever my project, if I did my part, the organization would support me in making it happen.

What impresses you the most about the firm’s culture?

We help each other achieve here. People concentrate on more than just their own roles, and in that way, we help each other, and we learn from one another. I’ve been impressed by the attention to training and career development as well. The firm has helped prepare me for each step along the way and made sure I had what I needed to succeed in each new role.

Have you found mentors here at the firm? How have they shaped your experience here?

The firm’s outstanding support extends to the mentoring relationships, too. To get the most out of it, both the mentor and mentee have a responsibility, so being clear about what you each want to achieve helps tremendously. The relationships have worked for me and helped me build incredibly useful networks at the firm as well.

How is the work/life balance at Morgan Stanley?

As a working mother, I have had an amazingly positive experience at Morgan Stanley. It is always a juggling act, but this is a company that sees the value in ensuring that women with children are able to carry on with not just a job, but a rewarding and challenging career.

Get Your Career Started At Morgan Stanley