James Gorman, chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley expects to make acquisitions in the asset management industry, according to CEO James Gorman.

“We’ll do deals,” Gorman said Tuesday at the firm’s virtual financials conference. “I’ve been very clear about that. I am not shy about doing deals that hit our sweet spot.”

The asset management industry faces pressure on fees from low-cost index funds, passive investing and other long-term challenges that have sparked a rush to consolidate. Recent tie-ups include Franklin Resources’ deal to buy Legg Mason in February, and Invesco’s acquisition of OppenheimerFunds, completed in May 2019.

While small deals are likely, Gorman said he’d be reluctant to take on a large-scale acquisition in the asset management industry. “Doesn’t mean there’s a zero chance, but certainly my bar and the board’s bar on that is much higher,” he said.
This isn’t the first time Gorman has expressed an interest in growing his fund management unit through acquisitions. Two years ago, he said he’d like to double the size of the business over the next five to seven years.

In wealth management, Morgan Stanley still expects to complete its acquisition of E-Trade Financial by the end of the year, Gorman said, adding that he “couldn’t be happier” about the takeover.