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Finance firm prizes math and science brains over MBAs

While they may be a finance firm, Morgan Stanley prefers to find supple minds and then teach them what they need to know about economics.

Norbert Fogarasi, general manager of Morgan Stanley’s Budapest office.

While many companies fret about the difficulty of recruiting technicians, engineers and mathematicians, Morgan Stanley said at a February 16 press briefing in Budapest that these might be the only kind of specialists they need to hire.

The financial services company employs a lot of people involved in financial and economics work, but that does not mean they are only in the market for MBAs.

“Collective knowledge is becoming more and more important, which means in many cases we do not investigate the field experience of applicants, but if their general knowledge, competencies and skills can fit successfully into the operations of our firm or not,” Norbert Fogarasi, general manager of Morgan Stanley’s Budapest office told the briefing. He explained that a lot of the financial and economic knowledge that his employees use can be taught to young workers, as long as they have the analytical ability to appreciate those subjects.

When Morgan Stanley first opened an office in Hungary in April 2006, it established the mathematical modeling center in Budapest, “to support the firm’s global fixed income trading business”, according to a statement from the company. “In July 2006, based on Hungary’s excellent higher education and the good quality professional local talent, the firm furthered its presence in the region by opening the business services and technology center in Budapest, to support business activities in North America, Europe and Asia.

In Morgan Stanley’s view, Fogarasi said, the most important knowledge is in the so-called “STEM” areas: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; in the coming years, these may become the most-sought-after set of competencies in recruitment, the firm says. Appreciation of STEM specialists is increasing internationally, but Hungary lags behind in acknowledging their value and taking advantage of their skills, the professionals of Morgan Stanley said.

“STEM is in fact the merger of different scientific fields, and is becoming especially relevant in the banking sector,” Fogarasi said. “It is not enough anymore if an IT programmer knows everything about writing programs. Sometimes they need to understand financial processes, while an economist sometimes needs to know about deeper process-modeling knowledge as well.”

Fogarasi told the press briefing that Morgan Stanley’s requirements are complex and require deep thinkers. Based on the experiences of Morgan Stanley’s Budapest operations, he said the work involves heavy analysis. Morgan Stanley has learned that, in many cases, it is not a disadvantage if a job applicant possesses no experience in the field of banking or finance, as the unique and special knowledge needed in this field can be acquired through internal training once the professional is enrolled by the firm.

“We have many positions requiring many different university qualifications. IT specialists, engineers, economists, financial experts, law professionals, teachers and more,” he said. “That’s why mathematicians and physicists often work in our Budapest offices.”