Morgan Stanley’s MS 2.13% top female executive in Asia, Wei Sun Christianson, will retire from the bank at the end of this year after working at the Wall Street firm for nearly two decades.
Ms. Christianson, 65 years old, is one of the most influential Asian women in global finance and was instrumental in helping the New York-based bank break into the China market. She has been Morgan Stanley’s China CEO since 2006 and its Asia Pacific Co-Chief Executive since 2011.
She recently informed the firm of her decision to retire, and will remain as an advisory director providing Morgan Stanley and its clients with insights about China, according to an internal memo seen by The Wall Street Journal.
Gokul Laroia, the bank’s other Asia Pacific co-CEO, has spent 26 years at the bank and will become the sole CEO of the region, which includes Australia but excludes Japan, the memo said. A Morgan Stanley spokesperson confirmed the contents of the memo.
Mr. Laroia, who is 55, has shared the top Asia job with Ms. Christianson since 2014. The longtime investment banker is also Morgan Stanley’s co-head of global equities, and has worked with the bank in Mumbai, New York, Singapore and Hong Kong.
After Ms. Christianson’s departure, Morgan Stanley doesn’t intend to appoint a new China CEO, as the various China units have their own leadership teams in place, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Ms. Christianson was born in Beijing and grew up during the Cultural Revolution, a period of chaos from 1966 to 1976 when much of China ceased to function. She went to study in the U.S. in the 1980s and graduated with honors from Amherst College in 1985, becoming the school’s first China-born graduate, before attending Columbia University’s law school on a scholarship.
She first joined Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong in 1998 and worked in its investment-banking division before leaving in 2002 and taking up senior roles at Credit Suisse AG and Citigroup Inc. In 2006, she rejoined Morgan Stanley as its China CEO.
In late 2007, Ms. Christianson helped Morgan Stanley negotiate and secure a $5.6 billion investment from China’s sovereign-wealth fund, which helped bolster the New York bank’s capital after it suffered heavy losses from its exposure to U.S. subprime mortgages.
She also helped extricate Morgan Stanley from an unfruitful partnership in China International Capital Corp. , a state-backed investment bank, in 2010. Morgan Stanley subsequently launched a securities joint venture in China called Morgan Stanley Huaxin Securities Co. in 2011.
Despite simmering tensions between the world’s two largest economies, Wall Street banks have been making inroads into China over the past two years, after Beijing relaxed market access to foreign financial institutions as part of a trade deal with Washington.
Morgan Stanley recently raised its stake in the securities venture to 90%, and dropped the local partner’s name from the venture to reflect the change in control. The bank is also seeking a majority stake in a fund-management joint venture.
“Wei has been instrumental in driving our strategy and enhancing our franchise in one of the most complex and important markets for the Firm globally,” the internal memo said.
Write to Jing Yang at Jing.Yang@wsj.com
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