Q&A with Audrey Choi, CMO and Chief Sustainability Officer, Morgan Stanley

In a fast-changing world, growth means being ready and able to change directions at every turn. How are you rethinking structures and/or ways of working inside of your organization in order to grow in new directions?

At Morgan Stanley, we are committed to leading with exceptional ideas. The strength of our brand is only as good as the innovative talent and exceptional expertise of our people. To unleash creativity, we’re building a culture of exploration. We are especially focused on fostering this culture in marketing, where the channels of communication multiply daily and where clients call the shots on how, when, and where they consume information. So we’re testing, learning, and adapting all the time — and our team is encouraged to do just that. We’re willing to take chances and are open to being early adopters of branding opportunities—as long as they are highly relevant to the audiences we need to reach.

In order to connect a constantly-shifting world, we need to find new ways of creating empathy and engagement. How do you get inside the heads—and hearts—of your customers and your employees both, in order to keep pace and grow with them?

At Morgan Stanley, both the client experience and internal culture are grounded in our four core values: Putting Clients First, Leading with Exceptional Ideas, Doing the Right Thing, and Giving Back. These values make their way into every brand and business decision we make, both internally and externally.

Living our core values is an integral part of who we are as individuals and as professionals. By engaging our employees’ intellect as well as their values, we are able to activate their passion and engagement in a unique and powerful way. Our commitment to sustainable investing is a prime example of how our employees can partner with our clients to address the issues they care most about. We work across all of our businesses to strengthen the array of financial products and strategies, seeking to offer competitive financial returns while addressing challenges such as a changing climate, a growing and changing population, and expanding use of natural resources—all with the ultimate aim of helping investors, and the companies in which they invest, leave a positive legacy to future generations.

How are you leveraging emergent or disruptive technologies to strengthen and grow your brand?

Not a day goes by in which we’re not presented with new technology and tools to advance our field, to connect more closely with clients, to amplify our messaging, to chart customer journeys, and to optimize our spending. It can be both dizzying and empowering. We’re at the forefront of employing technology to create customized experiences for our clients. And we strive to be on the forefront of applying marketing technology if it supports a strong business case. It’s tempting to add more tools to marketing’s toolkit, but our approach is much more strategic than that. We start with building clarity and consensus on business strategies that are then tightly aligned with all aspects of our marketing, planning, and investments. Technology is an amazing enabler to deliver high-performance marketing but it must have a direct connection to enabling growth for our business and exceptional experiences for our clients.

How has your brand been central to navigating some of the biggest challenges that your organization has faced this year?

Morgan Stanley’s brand and core values are crucial in challenging times, both for the firm and the industry overall. Doing the right thing is espoused from the top of the organization and all the way through. Our “Capital Creates Change” brand campaign focuses on the positive role we play in bringing the resources needed to make innovation and positive change happen. This is a true reflection of how our brand builds trust with clients because they know that not only are we serving their needs, but those of future generations as well.

Within our own organization, doing the right thing and giving back are tenets of our brand that we live as employees in ways large and small. In addition to a strong culture of volunteer service year-round, this year Morgan Stanley launched “Feeding Kids Around the Clock” to kick off our annual Global Volunteer Month. For one day, starting in Australia and ending in Hawaii, the program delivered 24 hours of continuous volunteer activities worldwide to help in the fight against childhood hunger. More than 2,300 employees volunteered by packing, preparing, and delivering nearly 1.9 million meals to feed children. This is just one example of how integrity and dedication to service are core parts of our brand culture.

What shifts within in your region or sector are you anticipating, and how are you proactively preparing for these changes?

We are not only embracing but, in key areas, also accelerating the use of digital technology to transform how we interact with our audiences and stay connected with clients. That includes utilizing AI and VR, and developing 360-degree views of our business at work to advance sustainability and support communities. We’re keenly aware that how we present our company, both online and offline, needs to be the best reflection of our corporate character and of the integrity, intelligence, and thoughtful insights of our people. We do this in creative and technologically advanced ways, while always ensuring that the message and the methods align with our core values and brand promise: helping clients harness capital to create positive change in their lives, fuel innovation, and advance ideas that bring markets, communities, and causes to life.

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