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Morgan Stanley keeps eye on expenses as legal costs rise: CFO

The headquarters of Morgan Stanley is pictured in New York January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
The headquarters of Morgan Stanley is pictured in New York January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Morgan Stanley is focused on cost-cutting, as legal expenses remain high and revenue has slowed in a seasonally weak period for trading and investment banking, Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat said on Tuesday.

The Wall Street bank began cutting 1,600 jobs from its institutional securities business in January, as part of a broader plan to reduce costs by $1.4 billion a year.

At a financial services conference in New York on Tuesday, Porat said Morgan Stanley is "continuing with our expense management program," as legal expenses are likely to remain elevated through the end of the quarter. Porat expects revenue to be seasonally sluggish this quarter, despite a strong pipeline of deal activity.

As part of her presentation at the conference, Porat also said Morgan Stanley is investing heavily in trading technology as fixed-income markets move toward electronic trading and clearing.

She also said the bank expects to earn more net interest income over time by using deposits from its brokerage business to make more loans to wealth clients. While net interest income is just 12 percent of Morgan Stanley's revenue, it makes up a larger percentage at its main wealth management rivals, Bank of America Corp , at 35 percent, and Wells Fargo & Co , at 23 percent. Morgan Stanley Wealth Management currently extends a loan to 5 percent of its customers, and aims to double that figure.

(Reporting by Lauren Tara LaCapra; editing by Matthew Lewis)

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