Morgan Stanley

Richard Wagner

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Head of Investment Banking, Morgan Stanley Australia


As the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Head of Investment Banking of Morgan Stanley Australia, Richard has a unique and varied role. Whether working on a number of large live transactions, attending major client pitches, or representing Morgan Stanley at public events, Richard thrives on the mental and competitive stimulation of his work. He recognises that in his role and across investment banking more generally, resilience is key.

Richard joined Morgan Stanley in 2005, working in the firm’s Investment Banking Division and became Australia CEO in 2016. Richard is a Director of the Australian Financial Markets Association (AFMA). Prior to Morgan Stanley, Richard worked at ABN AMRO where he was Head of Corporate Finance in Australia. He is one of the leading M&A practitioners in the Australian market having been involved in and led major transactions with a focus on the energy, utilities, and infrastructure sectors.

Richard holds a Bachelor of Commerce from University of New South Wales.

What brought you to Morgan Stanley?

I was attracted to the global presence and market position of Morgan Stanley in global markets including the US, Asia and Europe. While Morgan Stanley Australia was an outlier and quite small at the time, I liked the idea of a challenge of helping to grow the business. Steve Harker, the previous CEO for Morgan Stanley Australia, was a major influence in my decision to join Morgan Stanley. Having worked together previously, we caught up from time to time and shared a vision of growing the Australia franchise into a meaningful part of the Asia Pacific region. This would be achieved by hiring the right people and gradually building out our capability in the market—which is exactly what we did. We have built up a strong market position. We are now in the top tier of full-service investment firms in Australia and one of the only major global investment firms with a large scale wealth management business.

Did you always want a career in investment banking?

I became an investment banker straight out of university and last year was my thirtieth year in the industry. I believe if you become a specialist at something, you can add more value to the clients and the firm you work for. 

Can you please describe your current role at Morgan Stanley and your responsibilities?

I divide my time into three areas. Firstly, firm management and leadership. This entails working with management across our businesses on our priorities, working on internal programs to support our people and representing Morgan Stanley publicly in the Australian context. Secondly, I play an active role as the Co-Head of Investment Banking, which makes my role quite unique.  I enjoy working with clients and being involved in transactions. Thirdly, I have a broad set of client relationships I like to keep in regular contact with, such as our corporate clients and non-executive directors who operate in this market. Morgan Stanley is a relationship business, so it’s crucial we maintain and build strong relationships with our clients.  

What do you enjoy about your role?

I love the fact that every day is different. Every industry, company and client is different and every situation has its own challenges. I love the mental and competitive stimulation that comes with the job. For me, it’s also about our people. I think resilience is important in this industry. There can be many ups and downs, particularly when you are working in financial markets or on complex transactions. It’s important to be able to put things in perspective, and as our experience through COVID has also highlighted, staying connected and supporting one another is really important.  

What is a typical day like for you?

I have five children – so as you can imagine, my house is a pretty busy place! My morning routine is standard. I’m up pretty early and I check my emails to see what’s going on. I drop my kids off to school and I’m usually at my desk by 8am. This routine is important to me and it’s what sets me up for the day ahead. Usually, I’m working on a number of large transactions at any given time so my diary needs to be quite flexible for client meetings or other priorities. As part of a global company, and particularly post COVID I’m often on various Zoom or conference calls, as not all things require face to face interactions.

How would you describe the firm’s culture?

I believe Morgan Stanley is unique when it comes to culture. Putting the clients first and doing the right thing are two important core values. These may sound like straightforward principles, however our people live and breathe these values every day and they actually mean something for all of us. I think that is our difference. In this increasingly transparent and demanding regulatory environment we operate in, it’s not about profit first, it’s about putting the clients first. The thing about culture is that you can’t just invent it overnight It is part of the firm’s DNA. Our core values are integrated into everything we do, and are deeply rooted in our heritage and culture. When someone has a decision to make, if they ask themselves whether they’re doing the right thing and putting clients first, it will always lead to a sound decision. It’s these behaviours that should continue to shape our industry.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to a person starting out in the industry?

Investment banking is a very exciting and rewarding career, though it may not necessarily be the perfect fit for everyone. Starting out, I would advise you to work hard and do your best, but also have a careful eye on whether you really enjoy the job. If you really like a subject, you tend to be better at it. This applies to your career. If you like the role, firm and people you work with, you tend to get out of bed with a different amount of spring in your step. This is what will drive your success. 

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