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Morgan Stanley CEO: Another financial meltdown unlikely

Five years after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression rocked global markets, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman told CNBC on Tuesday the U.S. financial system is unlikely to suffer another calamity of the same magnitude.

"There is nearly zero chance of seeing a financial crisis like the one we just had and I truly believe that," Gorman said. "There will clearly be shocks and crisis, but the kind and nature that we saw, I truly believe the U.S. financial system is in dramatically better shape than it's been in in a long time."

Asked about the call for regulation in the years after the financial meltdown, Gorman told "Street Signs" that regulation was a necessary response.

"The banks didn't have enough liquidity. They didn't have enough capital and their leverage was too high and that's been changed and for the better and as a result, the banking system is much healthier than it otherwise would have been," Gorman said.


Morgan Stanley Chairman and CEO James Gorman
Scott Eells | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Morgan Stanley Chairman and CEO James Gorman

Though Morgan Stanley's stock traded at a 2.5 year high on Tuesday, Gorman wouldn't characterize investment banking as in the midst of a breakout, but said it's "clearly at a recovery point."

Meantime, the banking boss downplayed criticism from a former employee, who was quoted in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal as characterizing Morgan Stanley as a former white-shoe investment bank that has been reduced to just another retail brokerage.

"One person's opinion is just one person's opinion," Gorman said, adding he has transformed the institution, including expansion of its wealth management business and a resurgence of its securities business.

From equities to investment banking and equity capital markets, many of Morgan Stanley's businesses are top ranked around the world, Gorman said. The brokerage business, though, remains the focus.

"We have made a huge bet on the brokerage business," Gorman said, adding the bank went to Citigroup to buy Smith Barney after the financial crisis. Morgan Stanley completed the transaction just months ago, he continued. The purchase gives the bank increased stability and resilience of earnings, but also comes with $130 billion of deposits.

Going forward, Gorman said the bank won't be concerned so much with the percentage of its clients borrowing from the bank, but the quality of the loans.

—By CNBC's Drew Sandholm. Follow him on Twitter @DrewSandholm.

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