Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, Morrison worked at Jardine Matheson û one of AsiaÆs oldest companies. He spent 28 years with Jardines, where he became the companyÆs boss (or taipan) in 1994 after holding roles such as head of personnel and running the firmÆs property business, Hongkong Land.
He was hired into the American bank by fellow Briton and former Morgan Stanley Asia CEO and president, Mario Francescotti, in August 2000. It was a hire that surprised some û especially given the gaping cultural differences between a gentlemanly hong like Jardines, and a US investment bank.
Francescotti explained the rationale for the decision in an interview with FinanceAsia at the time: ôAlasdair has been in Asia for 30 years, which is longer than some of our bankers have been alive. He knows the region well, is committed to being here full term. He is also a man of high integrity and has a strong work ethic. Alasdair has been a CEO. He knows what it is like being a CEO in Asia. He can deal with other CEOs in Asia with the same mindset. He has had to deal with the issues that other Asian companies are facing now û restructuring and building shareholder value. So for us, having a CEO mindset and being able to deal with other CEOs on a strategic basis, as well as his character and experience made Alasdair very attractive for us.ö
After Francescotti himself retired as CEO in December 2001, Morrison combined the roles of chairman and CEO.
That changed last year after John Mack returned to lead Morgan Stanley in 2005. Mack decided to shake-up the Asian leadership and last February he moved former co-head of European investment banking, Hans Schuettler, to Hong Kong as CEO û with Morrison relinquishing the role to the German, but remaining chairman. The loss of the CEO role sparked speculation that Morrison may soon depart the firm.
The 58 year-old Morrison told FinanceAsia in a conversation yesterday: ôThe right time to go is when the firm is doing well, and here in Asia we have had three consecutive years of record profits and have a great pipeline of business. We have a great team and of course, it always with regret that you leave good colleagues and friends. But at this stage in my life I felt it was the right time to give myself the freedom to enjoy a wider variety of experiences.ö
One aspect of this is supporting his wife, Mary, with her company called Racing the Planet. Her adventure company organises extreme races that he has ran in. In June, for example, Morrison will participate (for the second time) in the Gobi March, a 250km desert footrace. Last year he took part in the Antarctica race that she also organises.
His spirit of adventure will also be tested by his plan to climb Cerro Aconcagua in Argentina. At 6,962 metres this is the highest peak outside Asia and was first climbed by Briton, Edward Fitzgerald, in 1897.
Morrison says he will continue to be based in Hong Kong, and with his 35 years of business experience in Asia, he will likely be offered several non-executive directorships. And if the current trend persists, he will probably also be offered regional non-executive roles by private equity firms, keen to tap his experience and corporate contact lists.
At Morgan Stanley, meanwhile, no successor has been named, with a spokesperson for the firm saying a new chairman will be appointed in the next few months.