Morgan Stanley
  • Diversity
  • Aug 5, 2022

A Virtual Route to Greater Diversity in Banking

By teaming with AmplifyME, a simulation training provider, Morgan Stanley is identifying a broader pool of intern candidates while giving them a taste of life on the sales and trading desks.

Like many university students, Montana Lee wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after graduation. She had enrolled at Duke University as an electrical and computer engineering major, but kept busy with a variety of extracurricular activities, including a stint programming for a big tech company and volunteering as a middle-school math teacher in New Orleans for a summer.

A career in finance wasn’t on her radar, but after a friend suggested she attend an educational event featuring an interactive simulation of life on a sales and trading desk, things started clicking into place. “It was a super fun hour,” says Lee. “I was trying to make all these trades and watching news about the market at the same time—it was so fast-paced. I knew it was something I wanted to try.”

After her session, Lee was one of a handful of participants who was fast-tracked for a Summer Analyst position with Morgan Stanley, and when she graduates this summer, she’ll join the firm’s Equity Sales and Trading division full-time.

That’s just the kind of outcome Morgan Stanley and AmplifyME are hoping to achieve with an ambitious new partnership. Working together, the two firms aim to offer more than 100,000 students the chance to participate at no cost in a sales and trading simulation at universities across North America, Asia-Pacific, and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). The program kicked off in January in the UK and will continue to roll out across various regions over the course of the year.

That rollout will include more than 1,000 campus events, with the goal of reaching a diverse group of students who, like Lee, have an untapped affinity for finance but might otherwise not have thought to consider a career in banking—specifically sales and trading.

Demystifying Sales and Trading

“The idea is to demystify the concept of an investment bank for students who have never been exposed to finance, provide them with a small taste of what the job is, and demonstrate that with the right skill set, a career in sales and trading is possible,” says Lizzie Weeks, Director of Campus Recruitment for Sales, Trading, and Research for EMEA at Morgan Stanley.

Originally designed as a training and orientation tool to help new hires get desk-ready, AmplifyME’s browser-based “Finance Accelerator” platform offers a realistic and interactive simulation, connecting the sales traders of an investment bank with hedge fund clients to help them to buy and sell stocks from a handful of publicly traded companies.

At the start of each event, students are divided into two groups: investment banks and hedge funds, each with their own performance objectives. Investment banks must work to help as many client trades as possible, giving prices that reduce the bank’s risk. Hedge fund clients try to maximize their investment return by trading through the investment banks that provide the most competitive service. The simulation also occasionally generates small market shocks to test a student’s ability to perform under pressure.

Throughout the simulation, AmplifyME collects detailed performance data on how well each student performs in the role. Metrics include the client-matching score of a sales trader and price-making ability of a market maker. Top performers are invited back for a second round of more in-depth training, called the Investment Banking Academy. Those who continue to excel are fast-tracked for Summer Analyst positions with Morgan Stanley.

“Sometimes the candidates that perform well in these simulations aren’t great at conveying that in interviews,” says Will de Lucy, AmplifyME’s co-founder and CEO. “I’m able to say, Listen, here are their scores. They’re really, really good. They may be a bit nervous in the interview, but just know that they’re equipped to do the role.”

Breaking Down Barriers and Achieving Better Outcomes

Will Smith, co-head of Morgan Stanley’s Prime Brokerage business in London, helped champion the new partnership with AmplifyME after participating in a few early sessions with the simulation firm at universities in the UK. He was immediately impressed with the simulation’s ability to connect with a diverse range of students.

“AmplifyME was reaching people who might not normally get to the first-round interview stage with the big investment banks,” says Smith. “I thought that those were exactly the kinds of people we needed, because those are the people who can come in and challenge the status quo. They can really change the way we think as a company.”

Smith was especially motivated to help because of his own unusual career path. Raised by a schoolteacher and engineer, Smith didn’t have any connections in the world of finance but ended up with an entry-level job as a bond trader after hundreds of applications and a bit of good luck. “I’m not from traditional target university, nor did I study finance, so I’ve always had a little bit of imposter syndrome,” says Smith.

For Smith, pushing to make Morgan Stanley accessible to a wider range of people can only help the bank as new markets and business opportunities open up in the future. “It’s important to have a diverse work force and not just because committing to equity and inclusion is the right thing to do as a firm. Our client base is evolving all the time, and having a bunch of people who look and think like me is not always going to be the best way to serve their needs,” he says.

“Appealing to new client bases is kind of the holy grail. So, you’re going to want these diverse young people who can think outside the box, understand what the trends are, and then come back to us and say this is what’s happening out there, this is what I’m hearing.”

Commit to diversity and inclusion is one of Morgan Stanley’s core values, but as Smith and Weeks point out, it also makes good business sense. Says Weeks, “Not only do we have a responsibility to be accessible to everyone, but it actually leads to better long-term business outcomes.” Thanks to our new partnership with AmplifyME, we continue to drive those outcomes with the next generation of diverse recruits. 

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