Financial services firms should broaden their focus in hiring to improve industry diversity, according to executives at Morgan Stanley.

“Instead of fitting people to jobs, fit roles to people,” Morgan Stanley global head of diversity and inclusion Susan Reid said at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association’s 2022 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leadership Summit last week in New York.

“We have to look at people and say, ‘I know you can do this job with the right support around you. You have 60% of what you need, the other 40% we can deliver to you,” Reid added.

Firms often offer more leniency in terms of experience when promoting or moving someone internally and should take a similar approach for external hires, according to Morgan Stanley chief legal officer and chief administrative officer Eric Grossman.

“When we move people around internally, we often say, ‘The person’s great, we don’t care that they’ve never done this other thing before. We’ll train them to do the other thing, but the person’s great.’" Grossman said at the Sifma conference.

"When we look to fill vacancies out in the market, though, we often say, ‘We want someone who knows how to do this,’ because the person who has the open head who needs that job filled wants the problem solved,” he said.

Grossman presented an example in which a hiring manager overlooks potentially qualified candidates by focusing on external candidates with precise experience.

“‘I need an equity derivative lawyer. I’m going to go out and get an equity derivative lawyer.’ Once you do that, you’ve limited your opportunities and you’ve robbed yourself of what we do internally, which is say we’re going to take this superstar, who might be diverse, and make them an equity derivative lawyer when they’re not." Grossman said at the Sifma conference.

Poaching from competitors will not do the trick either, according to Reid.

“We have done that enough,” she said at the conference.

“If we’re really trying to grow our numbers, we have to fill up the well from outside of our sector at the college level and at the mid-career level,” she added.

In May, Raymond James chief executive officer Paul Reilly made similar comments during a media briefing on the sidelines of the firm’s 2022 Elevate conference, as reported.

“We’ve found in recruiting there’s just not enough people to make a difference and, frankly, if you’re trying to make a societal difference, stealing from one firm to the other makes no difference — one firm’s stats go down by one, yours goes up by one. That’s not the goal,” Reilly said at the time.

“The goal is really to make a difference in society, and you have to really help develop, bring up, nurture and train that talent,” he added.