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"We do our work inside Morgan Stanley offices," CEO insists

Morgan Stanley CEO wants workers in offices
Morgan Stanley CEO wants workers in offices 01:05

The head of investment bank Morgan Stanley is taking a hardline approach to bringing U.S.-based employees back to the office, saying he expects nearly all of the firm's workers to return to the company's headquarters by Labor Day. 

CEO James Gorman cited rising vaccination rates across the U.S. and within the 60,000-employee firm to insist that working shoulder-to-shoulder on the bank's trading floors and in its conference rooms will be safe. 

"If you can go to a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office. And we want you in the office," he said at the bank's U.S. Financials, Payments & CRE Conference this week.

Gorman said that while the firm has thrived with people working remotely during the pandemic and that some flexibility will remain, "we do our work inside Morgan Stanley offices."

"That's where we teach, that's where our interns learn, that's how we develop people, that's where you build all the soft cues that go with having a successful career that aren't just about Zoom presentations," he said.

Some employees have already returned to Morgan Stanley's Times Square headquarters on a part-time basis, and 90% of those workers are vaccinated, according to Gorman. 

"I expect that number will trip up to probably 98, 99% and then we'll deal with those with the health or religious issues…we'll deal with that when we get there," he said of the relative few who decline to get COVID-19 vaccines. 

Companies can make vaccination mandatory, so long as they provide exemptions for employees with health issues and religious beliefs that prevent them from being jabbed. 

Gorman insisted he'll be understanding, too, if parents are still supervising young children who aren't enrolled in summer camp for the summer and can't immediately return to the office, he indicated. But for most of the staff, he's expecting a blanket return in September. 

"I'll be very disappointed if people haven't found their way into the office and then we'll have a different kind of conversation," Gorman said. 

He even suggested that workers who don't report to the firm's New York City headquarters should earn lower salaries than those who show up in person. Vice presidents earn an average salary of $168,000 per year, according to jobs site Glassdoor.

"If you want to get paid New York rates, you work in New York. None of this, 'I'm in Colorado...and getting paid like I'm sitting in New York City. Sorry, that doesn't work," he said.

During the pandemic, some Wall Street workers who were no longer tethered to their offices ditched their New York City apartments for more open space, boosting sales of luxury properties in resort markets like Aspen, Colorado; the Hamptons; and Palm Beach, Florida.

Gorman's remarks come as workers across industries express an overwhelming desire to continue working from home — either full-time or as part of a "hybrid" arrangement in which workers come to the office only several days a week.

Staff at the Washingtonian, a monthly Washington, D.C.-based magazine, revolted when Cathy Merrill, the CEO of parent company Washingtonian Media, suggested that remote workers should be demoted to contractors. 

Facebook has said that its employees can request to work from home permanently, but that they might see pay cuts if they relocate to less expensive areas than the company's pricey suburban San Francisco headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

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