A Deft Touch for Capital Markets Good and Bad: Ruth Porat, WG’87

To some, it came as a surprise when Morgan Stanley promoted Ruth Porat in 2006 to be head of the investment firm’s financial institutions group (FIG). After all, Porat had never been in that division, but had made her mark advising technology and industrial companies.

But the leadership at Morgan Stanley knew that Porat was not just a rising star, but an established one. “Ruth thoroughly understands the company and [investment banking],” said Derek Kirkland, her predecessor, noting that just as Porat was at the forefront of technology investment when it was hot, so would she be in financial institutions, now that that was a major emphasis for investment firms like Morgan Stanley. “The FIG practice across Wall Street has usually been culturally separate from the other businesses,” said Kirkland. “There’s an element here of wanting to ensure the best service for our clients.”

When prudence meant handling technology with aggressiveness, Porat was there, helping Morgan Stanley bring to IPO such firms as Broadcast.com, Priceline, Ask Jeeves, and VeriSign, Inc. She was, on the other hand, one of the first prominent investment firm analysts to warn that there were holes in the tech marketplace, when in 1998 she started advising clients to concentrate on the larger companies, like Cisco, Intel, Amazon, and Microsoft, and be wary of the more flighty startups.

She spent a year in London and then returned to concentrate on industrial firms. She worked with General Electric to make Genworth Financial’s 2004 stock offering the most successful IPO in two years, and advised the Mexican steel company Hylsamex as it was taken over by the Argentine firm Grupo Techint.

Porat preaches that no one goes anywhere alone in big business. “The success of the deal depends on the team driving it,” she told a classroom of Wharton students in 2005.

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