Introduction

Steve Rodgers can recall distinctly the moment he knew a career in politics wasn’t for him. A government major at Dartmouth, he was working for a Congressman in Washington, DC, helping out on a bill. “I was an intern, so I didn’t actually drive anything with the bill, but going through the process that resulted in a multi-hundred page document and realizing that, in the end, not a lot really changed was frustrating.”

Rodgers had enrolled at Dartmouth with initial plans to be pre-med, going on to explore other majors before settling on government. He started to look at careers outside of politics, considering what would engage him over the long term and what he could bring the most value to. After speaking to friends who worked in investment banking, he discovered that this might be his path forward. “I felt like it was a lot more action-oriented than other industries. You have a chance to actually get things done, and I knew I would be able to have an impact on companies and industries.” Drawing on his early pre-med days, Rodgers pursued opportunities that would allow him to focus on healthcare­–gaining experience in both the industry and the type of work most interesting to him.

He accepted a job in the healthcare group at an investment bank in Baltimore that specialized in mergers and acquisitions and equity offerings for middle market companies. “I liked that it let me leverage my interest in healthcare while learning about the world of finance at the same time,” he says. His career progressed through other several private equity and hedge fund firms, as well as the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where his earned his MBA. Recently, Rodgers joined Morgan Stanley Investment Management’s Private Credit & Equity group, covering the healthcare sector.

A big reason he cites for the move: He liked how the firm values serving its clients with integrity. “How good your franchise is depends on how well you adhere to a client first mentality. At Morgan Stanley, we are always thinking about better ways to serve our clients.”Rodgers shares his insights on Consumer-Driven Healthcare in this Morgan Stanley Minute.

What is your role at Morgan Stanley?

I lead the Healthcare Private Equity investing team. We’re a middle market private equity fund that invests in companies with between $10 million and $50 million in operating income, with a focus on business services and consumer, healthcare and industrial companies. On a day-to-day basis, I’m leading the teams that are identifying new opportunities, reviewing those opportunities, meeting with companies, then competing to try to win those deals. Once we make those investments, I work with our operating partners to identify and drive growth and efficiency opportunities for our portfolio companies.            

What drew you to Morgan Stanley?

Morgan Stanley’s commitment to its clients and strong culture resonated with me, and I could see firsthand how those values operate at the individual business level. It’s a much more competitive environment for the private equity industry today, and the team understood the tools and framework that would be successful in the changing market.

In private equity, we drive discipline in our portfolio companies, in terms of process, rigorous metrics, management and the like. But it’s just as important for a private equity fund to impose those same disciplines on itself. I saw the Morgan Stanley team doing that, whether it was how rigorously they were tracking their deal flow, how rigorously they were thinking about the investment process or how rigorously they engage with portfolio companies.

I had also seen the importance, as the private equity market matured, of bringing new perspectives to these transactions. Morgan Stanley developed a unique approach to driving value in our businesses, which includes having dedicated operating partners and accelerators on the team, using a network of industry experts, and having intentional value-creation plans for portfolio companies from the outset.  The team has continually challenged itself to think critically about how they can best serve all stakeholders, and that focus was a key differentiator for me.

What about healthcare interests you?

It started with just a general interest in the field. But I came to realize that healthcare is a massive sector that is not operating at the level of efficiency that it should be or could be, and that creates opportunity.

I am a firm believer that the private markets can be a force for positive change, if focused appropriately. The companies that we get involved with all have the potential to improve healthcare or maintain positive health outcomes for people. There are still too many people who don’t have adequate care, and there are many opportunities for the industry to serve patients better.  

How does that change come about?

I think there are four drivers creating change and opportunity in healthcare right now. The first is consumerism—the idea that the consumer is having a much greater role in decisions about healthcare. The next is demographic trends—everything from aging to obesity is driving the utilization of healthcare. The third is enabling technologies that can be cost savers or efficiency drivers, whether administratively or clinically. And related to that is cost containment in general—the ways we can drive down costs and still preserve quality.

What is it that’s special about the Morgan Stanley culture?

I’ve always known that Morgan Stanley had a great culture–I’ve had lots of friends and colleagues who have worked here. But you don’t really understand it until you’re actually here. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve been able to reach out to people outside of my group who are always willing to help. It’s not, “When I get to it.” I get phone calls returned right away. And that reinforces the collaborative culture, because when you get that phone call, you already understand and are naturally inclined to pay it forward.

Just as important is the fact that everyone here knows you can be successful and still treat clients and stakeholders with integrity. I see that here every day because it’s central to our culture, and that’s incredibly important.

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