iStock_000006684238XSmallBy Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

On Wednesday, Morgan Stanley held its third annual Strategy Challenge event, the culmination of an eight-week program in which 60 of the firm’s up-and-coming talent put their skills to use for fifteen charities in need of strategic advice on organizational growth.

Audrey Choi, Managing Director of Global Sustainable Finance at Morgan Stanley, remarked, “At Morgan Stanley, we have a long standing, deep commitment to giving back to the community.”

The non-profits are not the only beneficiaries of the program, though. Choi added that the participants in the Strategy Challenge are nominated by their business leaders as future leaders of the firm. They are able to make connections with other rising stars, and gain access to senior level individuals they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet, in addition to gaining valuable skills and experience.

As a result, Choi said, Morgan Stanley has donated 6,500 hours of community service this year, worth approximately $1 million – and that figure does not include the value of the advice provided by the firm.

Joan Steinberg, Managing Director and Global Head of Philanthropy at the firm, added, “When we say we want to deliver the best to our communities, this is what we mean.”

Building Employee Engagement through Pro Bono Competition

Steinberg explained that while Morgan Stanley has always engaged in a significant amount of employee volunteer work, the Strategy Challenge came about three years ago as a way to engage the firm’s workforce in philanthropic efforts in a way that would utilize their best assets – their analytical skills. She said, “We felt we weren’t taking advantage of the skills of our employees and wanted to test that and figure out how to do it.”

She continued, “The idea was to take teams of the best and brightest employee and give them two months and a problem to work on, and actually apply everything they know to solving that problem.”

“And then to add extra oomph – because that’s how we are – we added an element of competition,” she said with a laugh.

Morgan Stanley has now run the competition three years in a row. This year, 15 teams of Associate and VP-level individuals with varying cross divisional skillsets were assembled, and assigned to the participating non-profits, which had to apply though an RPF process to participate in the program.

On Wednesday, President and CEO James Gorman announced the winning teams of Morgan Stanley advisors and presented grants of $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000 to the nonprofits they advised: Women’s Initiative for Self Employment, Feeding America, and Episcopal Social Services.