Gokul Laroia is CEO of Asia Pacific for Morgan Stanley, Co-Head of Global Equities and a member of the firm’s Management Committee. Over a career at Morgan Stanley spanning more than 20 years, Laroia has held a number of leadership positions across the region, heading up the firm’s Mergers & Acquisitions, Capital Markets and Investment Banking divisions before assuming his current role in 2014.
Laroia holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and an MBA from the University of Delhi.
Describe your current role at the firm and your responsibilities.
In addition to being CEO for Asia Pacific, I also run the equities business across Asia, including Japan. While my product role involves Japan, my management role focuses on Asia, excluding Japan.
I spend about two thirds of my time on equities. Half of that time, I’m meeting clients across the region. We have a local presence in almost every major market: Japan, Australia, India, Korea and Singapore are some of the larger ones.
The rest of my time I focus on my CEO responsibilities, managing risk, people development, analyzing new business opportunities and regulatory matters.
Earlier in my career at Morgan Stanley, I ran Asia Pacific Investment Banking and Capital Markets. I still spend a fair amount of time supporting those businesses, pitching for new mandates and retaining talent.
How have you progressed and evolved through your time at Morgan Stanley?
My career has been a mix of being tapped for opportunities and seeking new challenges. In one of my proactive career moves, I sought a new challenge after 15 years in Investment Banking and found a new role in Sales & Trading. I’ve also worked in M&A and then Capital Markets. Working at a company like Morgan Stanley presents many opportunities to move across disciplines, products and geographies through your career.
How have you benefited from your local knowledge of the Asia region?
I have spent more than 20 years in Asia, mostly in Hong Kong and Singapore, with two years in India. I have lived through three to four economic cycles. My experiences in the region have been critical to my career success and my ability to meet the needs of our clients.
The needs of clients differ by market. Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong are the major developed markets. Korea and Taiwan are more developed, while China, India and Indonesia are true emerging markets that are still very much a work in progress. Client needs are a function of the market rather than the region.
What is the most fulfilling aspect about your work?
There are two parts to that. First, the people. We probably have the best people on the Street, across the board. That’s been my experience after 20 years of working with great people across divisions. When you spend most of your day working together, you want to spend it with people you can learn from and respect.
The second part is the power of the brand, which I truly recognized when I became Co-CEO. Clients want to work with Morgan Stanley. It’s a brand they feel they can trust. We’ve been in Asia for over 40 years, doing first-class business in a first-class way. We’ve been involved in some of the highest profile transactions in the region. There’s been tremendous work by the generations that have preceded me, and it’s a great opportunity and privilege to be able to lead the brand forward.
How would you describe the firm's culture?
From my vantage point, the desire to be collaborative is higher at Morgan Stanley than any place else. You hear that from people that come from other firms.
I’ve been fortunate to have had a lot of mentoring, which strengthens that collaborative culture. I’ve also been a mentor myself and always try to support and guide people who work with me.
How does Morgan Stanley attract the best and brightest associates in Asia?
The need for local talent is paramount and Morgan Stanley is active in going to local schools and identifying potential employees early on. In the region, every Morgan Stanley office has an internship program to identify talent. We also send some of these interns to different offices.
Discuss the importance of “Giving back” for the firm in the region?
This is a core value that’s deeply rooted in the firm. It is about all of us joining forces to create a positive and lasting impact on the communities where we live and work. It’s always been a focus for us in Asia Pacific, and Wei and I are proud of all that our colleagues have achieved.
Where do you see the greatest opportunities for Morgan Stanley in Asia Pacific going forward?
Wealth Management is an important driver, given the amount of wealth creation in the region and given the cross-selling synergies and relationships it brings to the wider firm. We are building a business that is symbiotic with our securities platform. We also see significant opportunities related to the opening up of the Chinese capital markets.