By Scott Wright

IT is one of the many unfortunate by-products of the coronavirus crisis that Morgan Stanley has not been able to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of its Glasgow office in the manner it once imagined.

But while the Covid pandemic has posed the US investment banking giant all sorts of logistical challenges, its commitment to Scotland’s biggest city remains undimmed.

The Glasgow operation now employs 1,600 people and, declared its managing director Vida Rudkin, the institution is committed to gradually growing that number further still.

Ms Rudkin, who has headed the Glasgow division for 10 years, is particularly pleased the bank is still committed to providing opportunities for young people, especially at a time when job losses arising from the pandemic are having a disproportionate effect on the younger demographic.

Though Morgan Stanley has contributed to the conversation around how the Scottish economy can recover from the crisis through representations by Scottish Financial Enterprise (Ms Rudkin sits on the board as a non-executive director), she believes the biggest contribution the bank can make is on the job front.

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It is a particular source of satisfaction that the Glasgow office was able to offer its internship, apprenticeship and graduate programmes this summer, despite the vast majority of its staff still working from home. Between the three programmes, around 100 people have come on board, including eight school leavers. The Glasgow operation now has 14 apprentices on the four-year programme.

“That’s where we can definitely play a big role,” Ms Rudkin said, who began her career with Andersen Consulting before moving into investment banking with Barclays and UBS.

“We have continued to hire from graduate recruitment [while] a lot of companies have paused their graduate recruitment. We have launched a brand new apprenticeship programme, so we are taking on people from school without university degrees. To do that, in a year like this, I think is really good.

“We ran our summer internship programme and a lot of companies cancelled theirs. That kind of investment in young people, and keeping opportunities for young people… are some pretty strong things we are doing.”

Ms Rudkin added: “A lot of our investment and commitment to Scotland has been [because of] the talent we have been able to get. That depth of talent, the relationships with universities, is one of the reasons we have the reputation that we do.”

Like many big organisations, Morgan Stanley moved quickly in the early days of the pandemic to ensure its colleagues could work at home. At one stage, nearly 100 per cent of the team were working remotely, compared with a figure of 95% for Morgan Stanley globally, with Ms Rudkin saying the functions it provides to the bank worldwide have continued uninterrupted.

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“We’re doing the same job,” she said. “We have about 1,600 people here and we cover a lot of divisions. The things we do in Glasgow have supported in the past all the other regions, so we were able to continue doing that.

“There was a little bit of flexing at the start because everybody in every country was working from home, and some countries found it easier than others. For example, India took a little longer to get up and running than maybe we did. For the most part, we have retained our levels of service and we are still playing the same integral role we were playing before.”

Asked if the moving to home working would have any implications for the bank’s sizeable office in Glasgow’s international financial services district, Ms Rudkin replied: “What I would say is that people’s attitudes have massively changed in terms of how they work. Many people want and expect a bit more flexibility than they had before.

“It’s a bit early to see any large-scale changes, but like most organisations we would expect to give staff more flexibility.

“We still think it is important to have an office, to collaborate, to innovate. People still need to meet for certain things; and that’s how you grow your culture. But do people have to be there 100% of the time? Probably not.”

As for marking the bank’s twentieth anniversary in Glasgow, Ms Rudkin said some celebrations have been taking place, although not on the manner originally envisaged.

An all-office, virtual open forum was hosted by senior management in Glasgow and London, at which staff watched a specially commissioned animated video to celebrate the landmark. The anniversary was also commemorated on the huge digital screens at the bank’s headquarters on Times Square, New York.

Speaking shortly before the screening, Ms Rudkin said: “We’ve mocked up a cool little three-minute storyboard of the journey from starting with six people in Cumbernauld 20 years ago, who were working in credit card services, through to 1,600 people now, who are supporting Morgan Stanley around the world,” she said. “[It is] just to try and make them feel good and make them feel proud, and to thank them for what they have done.

“We have a number of staff, believe it or not, who are still with us from those early days.”

Six Questions

What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why?
I was lucky enough to be born in Trinidad & Tobago and I lived there until I was 18; home is still my favourite place to go. 
I have travelled a bit for work and loved Hong Kong with the views of the water, the vibrant culture and the work life balance. 

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal? 
I was fascinated with pictures of the solar system and the stories of life in space. For a long time I wanted to be an astronaut.

What was your biggest break in business?
I have always valued having mentors and a strong network, this is something we strongly encourage and develop at Morgan Stanley. I consider my career to be a series of “breaks” brought about by having great mentors and a strong network.

What was your worst moment in business? 
As a risk officer I tend to treat issues as challenges. In my role at Morgan Stanley, challenges vary in their complexity but by working through and undertaking actions as a team, we are able to solve them and develop processes to prevent it happening again. 

Who do you most admire and why? 
There are many people 
I admire, particularly those who stand up for what they believe in and influence change.

What book are you reading and what music are you listening to? 
Currently, I am enjoying listening to folk and indie. I love reading a good crime or spy novel.