Profile

Audrey Choi

Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer of Morgan Stanley

Introduction

With a career spanning multiple industries and sectors, from The Wall Street Journal to the White House, Audrey brings a unique perspective to her roles as Morgan Stanley’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and its first Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO). As CMO, she helps ensure that the brand reflects the firm’s core values of leading with integrity and exceptional ideas across its businesses and geographies. As CSO, Audrey oversees the firm’s efforts to promote global sustainability through capital markets. She also continues to serve as the CEO of the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing. Audrey’s leadership focuses on how the firm’s approaches to investing advice and access to capital can help promote positive change.

Audrey’s experiences make her a respected thought leader on harnessing finance to address community concerns and global challenges. Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, she held senior policy positions in the Clinton Administration, including Chief of Staff of the Council of Economic Advisers and Domestic Policy Advisor to Vice President Al Gore. Previously, Audrey was a foreign correspondent and bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. Audrey is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School. She serves on the boards of several national nonprofits focused on sustainability, community development and social justice.

How has your experience outside of the financial services industry affected the way you approach your role at the firm?

My experiences in government, journalism and nonprofits give me a perspective on how the financial services industry affects and interacts with the broader community. I learned how important it is to think not only about our direct clients and shareholders, but also about our impact on all of our stakeholders—from employees to community members.

Early in my career, as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, I had a front-row seat watching and reporting on CEOs as they steered their businesses and managed their firms’ corporate characters. I began to appreciate just how materially a corporation's financial success is affected by both its pubic reputation and its culture and level of integrity.

Then, while in the White House, I helped forge public-private partnerships to deliver on public policy goals. Through those experiences, it became clear to me that when firms align their businesses and values, the private sector can be among of the most powerful, agile, and scalable forces for positive change. It became clear to me that, when firms align their businesses with broader positive impact, the private sector can be one of the most powerful, agile, and scalable forces for change. All of my experiences before joining Morgan Stanley—and in the decade since—have only deepened this conviction. And, as Morgan Stanley leads with its values, we are proving that capital can create change—change that can be profitable, inclusive and delivers benefits for both shareholders and communities.

Where do good ideas come from?

I believe great ideas come when we lead with our values. When we combine the things we care about with the skills and resources at our disposal, we get passion with excellence. At Morgan Stanley, we are proud of our cultural commitment to integrity and excellence in all that we do. Combine that with our commitment to doing the right thing—for our clients and for our community—you can drive innovation that creates true impact.

Whether it is bold new research insights, new investing products or innovative new financial structures, we create value when we bring all our best “traditional” skills to tackle tomorrow’s challenges. Then, instead of being daunted by problems that may seem unsurmountable, we can see opportunities that inspire us to tap our skills, creativity and a problem-solving mindset. Entrepreneurial thinking, rigorous analytics, and financial acumen are the tools that can help create growth and wealth, but they can also create the solutions to help solve some of the toughest problems we face as a society.

How is sustainability central to both Morgan Stanley’s identity and how it does business?

We believe that a truly sustainable business is financially, as well as environmentally and socially, sustainable. Once you understand that, you begin to see that sustainability is not something that exists apart from—or in opposition to—business. Rather, it is an integral part of sound business. There is a growing body of research that shows that the companies that integrate environmental, social and governance issues into how they operate can benefit materially from lower risks, lower costs and the ability to deliver higher returns.

And sustainability as a business principle is increasingly what our clients want. In 2009, when we first launched the Global Sustainable Finance group at the firm, the market for sustainable investing was just under $3 trillion in the U.S. Today, those numbers have almost tripled, jumping to nearly $9 trillion in the U.S.—and $23 trillion globally. Meanwhile, our latest poll of individual investors showed that 75% of investors are interested in sustainable investing and 79% believe that their investment decisions can make a difference by helping lift people out of poverty2.

How have networking and mentoring shaped your experience here?

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have great mentors and sponsors at the firm who have helped shape who I am as a leader and as a colleague. Morgan Stanley’s collaborative culture has been central to my experience here. Particularly when I first joined, coming from a non-traditional background, I was struck by the generosity of knowledge and spirit among the colleagues that I met. There was an eagerness to learn what different perspectives I could bring from my experiences in government, journalism and the nonprofit sector. And there was an equal readiness to help me see the world through their eyes. After 10 years at the firm, I am still struck by the willingness of colleagues to come together to brainstorm and develop a new product, strategy or solution.

I have also greatly benefited by serving as a mentor to others. Through their ideas, passion and insights, I am constantly learning what Morgan Stanley can do differently and how, there is not only room for innovation, but also a desire to make a difference. I definitely have found that mentoring, when done right, is really a two-way street. Both people in a mentoring relationship stand to learn, grow and discover new things about themselves and each other. It is a fundamentally important part of the apprenticeship and partnership mindset that has always been an important part of the Morgan Stanley culture.

What do you see as the future of the Morgan Stanley brand?

Our brand—and our respected reputation—are rooted in our belief that capital is critical to innovation at every level of the market and in every corner of the world.. As we drive capital to create change, our brand needs always to reflect how Morgan Stanley leads with integrity and insight. That’s why we have to be responsive and keep asking how we can help our clients—whether companies, venerable institutions, or individuals—to invest for financial return and for positive impact.

Particularly in today’s world, as disruption increasingly becomes the norm, we need to understand what is coming around the bend and what it will mean for business, for our lives and our communities. As a financial partner for public and private entities, individuals and enterprises, our job is to understand the implications of societal and economic disruptive forces so that our clients are prepared for what comes next. At Morgan Stanley, we pride ourselves on hiring and developing smart, insightful, intellectually curious people whose integrity is consistent when change is constant.

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