S. Hirai

Managing Director,
Head of Japan Technology,
Chief Information Officer

Tell us about your career path to your current role

I joined Morgan Stanley in 2000 as part of the Technology Analyst Program after graduating from University. After completing the training program in New York, I returned to Japan to support the Equities and Fixed Income trading floors, doing mainly general trading, desktop environment and application support. Technology was becoming increasingly complex, and more applications were being built and deployed, hence there was a need for more specialized technology support functions.

In 2003, I was part of the first specialized support group focusing on Fixed Income and Currency (FX) applications, where we supported the applications used by Sales and Trading. I spent most of my days troubleshooting complex application problems, helping to roll out new applications, and focusing on making sure our technology was working as intended. I started working in a business initiative involving external technology integration in 2006. This was a fantastic experience! I learned new things, met people outside the firm, and picked up a very different set of skills.

In 2008, it was time for another change, and I was asked to take on a larger management role in application support. While I had managed a small team before, this was an even bigger challenge. Over the subsequent years, I kept expanding my responsibilities across the Asia region and adding on more business lines to support, growing from Fixed Income and FX to adding Operations and Equity support areas as well.

By 2013, our support functions had become well established, and all application support functions were consolidated in a division within Technology called Quality Assurance and Production Management. I was asked to become Head of that division for all Asia at that time. This group evolved in 2020 to become the Reliability & Production Engineering Division, which focuses on support, stability, observability and reliability for real-time financial services applications, and I continue to lead that group to this day.  

In 2018, in addition to my other responsibilities, I was asked to become the Head of Technology and CIO in Japan for Morgan Stanley. These roles came with a whole new set of interesting challenges that span all areas of Technology, from development to infrastructure and innovation strategy. Given this exposure to all parts of the firm’s technology footprint, I enjoy being in the position to connect the dots, work with our stakeholders across the Firm and explore new ways to utilize technology to reduce risk, minimize cost and support revenue growth.  

What is the task, project or incident that you remember the most?

It isn't just macroeconomic drivers or political news that create challenges to the financial services industry. Sometimes, it can even be the weather. In 2012, a large storm—Hurricane Sandy—hit the New York area, a region that is home to many of the offices and data centers underpinning our global infrastructure. Our technology teams had to spring into action. We had to mobilize people in anticipation of transportation being impacted, deal with various power issues, and ensure that our servers and applications were running smoothly. The whole event really reminded me that the financial services industry is heavily dependent on technology located around the globe, and what a critical role technology plays in the global financial services industry.

What motivates you to work?

Since I was a child, I have always loved puzzles. The fact that I can come to work and be presented with clues and problems that I can solve for a living is something that really excites me. The complexity of both the financial services industry and technology in general, and the pace at which both of these change, means that there are endless challenges to address. The global nature of Morgan Stanley also motivates me. I know that when I wake up in the morning, things will have changed overnight. There will be a new set of challenges to address, and new news in the markets we need to react to. There’s always a surprise in the morning. All of the problems we face are opportunities to learn new things. I especially like that I have been here for over 20 years and have been able to learn something new every day. In addition, we hire good, smart, talented people and working closely with such high caliber people all day makes coming to work truly enjoyable.

What do you like to do during your time outside of work (hobbies/interests)?

I have three children and a dog at home. A lot of my time outside work revolves around spending time with my family, going on walks, and playing sports. I am often asked about how I can have such a busy job yet spend time with family. Actually, that is where technology has really helped in finding the right balance. I work with many people around the globe so there are times when I need to make calls in the evening or early morning. With remote computing capabilities, I can still connect to the office from home when needed, allowing me to be more efficient. Successfully balancing a career and a family has a lot of challenges, but it equally brings just as many rewards.

What would you say to a student who is job-hunting and/or is considering a career at Morgan Stanley?

Morgan Stanley is an environment with a lot of exciting opportunities. To remain globally competitive, we value the ideas and opinions of all of our employees, including our more junior staff, as these often provide the seeds of future innovation and efficiency improvement. Coming into this company, you will be expected to speak up about those ideas and make contributions from day one. Teamwork is also core to our culture, and there is a lot of support from the team and organization to help you succeed. My advice would be to spend time researching the company and use interviews to ask lots of questions. It is really important to find a company that has the values that appeal to you, a culture you feel that you can succeed in, and especially an environment where you can be yourself and grow.

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