Morgan Stanley Builds Research Portal on Microsoft Azure Public Cloud

  • Morgan Stanley is building a new research portal on the public cloud.
  • The portal is built from scratch on Microsoft Azure.
  • It is one of the first steps in the bank’s modernization roadmap since its partnership with Microsoft.

Morgan Stanley is overhauling its public cloud research portal in a move that will change the way the bank shares data with its institutional and asset management clients.

The new system will be built on Microsoft Azure and is the bank’s first major migration from an on-premise system to the cloud since the signing of a deal in June that saw Azure act as lead cloud partner.

The new portal will allow Morgan Stanley to share more data, including different types, and do it faster than with its on-premise offering, Andrew Sargison, general manager and global head of advisory, sales and distribution and international wealth management at Morgan Stanley, told Insider .

“What we can do now in the cloud, with greater amounts of data, different types of data and also the types of computers available. More access to that is one of the key benefits of being in the cloud,” Sargison added.

“This is a shared vision of how we think research technology will evolve in the future, and it’s a vision we believe is shared by our clients as well,” he said of the bank’s institutional and asset management clients.

The three-year project is indicative of a shift to the public cloud that will revolutionize the way Wall Street consumes, analyzes and shares data. Banks, buy-side companies, merchants and trading platforms are increasingly migrating systems to the public cloud.

“We want to meet our customers in the cloud. They are also embarking on a journey to the cloud, and there are huge benefits for our customers if we can all work within the same cloud environment and playground,” Sargison said.

Morgan Stanley builds the new technology from scratch in the cloud

Morgan Stanley’s technical overhaul of its research portal will not be a lift-and-shift project with the bank moving its entire system untouched to the public cloud.

“We’re not moving applications from on-premise to the cloud. That’s not a journey we’re on, and that’s not what we should be doing,” Sargison said.

Instead, the bank groups its current portfolio of applications into three major ecosystems: authoring, in which analysts create content; distribution of content; and data insights. Those services will be built from scratch in the cloud, with the trio forming the basis for the new portal.

Morgan Stanley will split the multi-year technology lift into 2-week stints so that new functionality is continuously rolled out during the build.

“The way we interact with our customers has changed significantly over the past ten years — we no longer share PDFs, which all institutions did 10 years ago,” Sargison said.

The bank has evolved to share different types of data beyond reports, including videos, podcasts, and interactive charts and graphs. The cloud enables Morgan Stanley to easily share these more complex forms of content with customers by authorizing access to a shared environment.

It’s not just about how the bank treats customers. It will also make the work of Morgan Stanley analysts easier, as it provides a centralized place to integrate and analyze a mix of cloud-based data and proprietary data residing in the bank’s data centers.

In addition, as third-party tools are starting to release tools only in the cloud, the bank is “very excited” to take advantage of the new features as they are released, Sargison said. That includes Azure’s Power BI, which processes data into reports and dashboards for real-time insights.

Greater modernization effort drives Morgan Stanley to retrain its engineers

The research portal is just one of many examples that the bank is currently prioritizing moving to the cloud as part of an accelerated move to the cloud, Allison Gorman, general manager and head of the cloud center of excellence, told Insider.

The research portal was ready for the move, as it is a largely closed ecosystem of applications hosted on-premise with minimal external dependencies, Sargison said.

And while the bank will work primarily with Microsoft Azure, it maintains a multi-cloud strategy, working with Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and IBM. Risk assessments, data analytics and other customer-centric technologies are some other examples of cloud-based offerings at Morgan Stanley, said Gorman, who has spent 31 years at the bank in AI, compute and data infrastructure roles.

As the bank continues to embrace the public cloud, it has retrained its technical foundation to accelerate migration. For Gorman’s team, at least 50% has been retrained in cloud design and understanding of the architecture of cloud native applications.

The other half was a mix of external hiring, specifically engineers experienced with Azure and AWS and able to rethink how to leverage on-prem capabilities and reposition them in the cloud, and vendor partners engaged to accelerate recruitment .

“With the increased demand for cloud talent across all industries, including the cloud providers themselves, we have found it difficult to hire at the desired pace,” said Gorman.

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