Morgan Stanley

Toks Afolabi-Ajayi

Managing Director, Investment Banking Division

How did you wind up working in finance?

I was always good with numbers. In school, I had an amazing science teacher, so I decided to study physics. I didn’t have a career plan—all I wanted was to study something I enjoyed. Physics helped me understand the world, and I liked that. Then someone from Morgan Stanley called my college and said, “Give me the names of four smart people who don’t study finance.” My name was one of them. He told us, “It doesn’t matter that you didn’t study business. What we need is your creativity at solving problems.” That’s how I was introduced to the firm and investment banking. Today, I still work with math; I just use it to help clients make their ideas a reality. That’s how I make sense of the world of business.

What’s your role at Morgan Stanley?

I’m in the Mergers and Acquisitions group. Company A wants to buy Company B. Is it a good idea? How much do they pay for it? How should they finance it? Structure it? It’s like purchasing anything: Should I buy this item of clothing? Should I use my credit card? Just on a grander scale. Day to day, I would describe my role as a project manager reviewing analysis and anticipating what issues might come up tomorrow or next week. I make sure that the junior team is focused on what we need to do today and that the senior team is comfortable with the analysis and conclusions we are reaching.

When does your division get involved in these deals?

We are a product team selling M&A advice and execution. Generally, once we help a company decide an idea is good, my team gets involved in the detailed execution of that idea—when the client thinks, “Yes, we want to pull the trigger on this acquisition.” There’s a lot of process involved, so it’s my team’s job to roll up our sleeves and make sure the analysis and execution goes smoothly.

What’s a project you’ve worked on that excited you?

One I personally enjoyed was for a large drug distribution company. It was a complicated deal, and I had just come back from business school. But I got to know the client’s chief financial officer well because he had a lot of detailed questions, and I got him the answers. It was exciting because of the level of direct interaction I had with a senior client. I still get the occasional email from him asking me how I’m doing.

Does your physics background inform your work now?

It does. Physics is in large part exploring physical relationships using a mathematical framework. The other day, I was just working with correlation charts and logarithms. I never thought I’d see a log table again and, of course, here I am, trying to value a company based on where it sits on a log curve. So physics does rear its head!

How would you describe collaboration at Morgan Stanley?

I started off as an intern in 2005. Before that, I had no idea what a three-statement model was. I liked the fact that it was more of an apprenticeship. People go out of their way to mentor you because they don’t expect that everyone is steeped in financial theory. For someone who certainly wasn’t, that was great. Eventually I went to my boss and said, “I’m having a great time here. I’m really developing, but I want to go to business school.” He was very supportive. When I got in, he was so excited, he actually jumped up and gave me a big bear hug. He was the head of my group, but he really cared. He was almost as excited as my parents, honestly.

What are your interests outside of work?

I always wanted to learn how to fly planes. Just before business school, I took six weeks off to do just that. So in my spare time now—time that I don’t spend catching up with friends and doing normal, everyday stuff—I try to fly.

Why would you encourage someone to work at Morgan Stanley?

If you’re smart and want to be surrounded by smart people who will allow you to be yourself, Morgan Stanley is the place for you.

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