Hate earnings season? Morgan Stanley robots give analysts a hand

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(Bloomberg) -- For those who dread the quarterly deluge of corporate earnings reports, the arrival of robots on Wall Street might not be all bad.

Morgan Stanley’s research department is testing artificial intelligence to take over the grunt work involved in covering earnings -- a brutal ritual that leaves analysts poring over filings and listening to executives talk for hours. The world’s biggest equity-trading investment bank churns out 50,000 reports a year, some of which are just summaries of disclosures. Such tasks are better suited to machines, according to global research head Simon Bound.

“We can use artificial intelligence to make the earnings cycle a lot more efficient for analysts,” Bound said in an interview. “The idea is to free up analysts for value-added work and accelerate discovery of insights; they can then spend more time in front of clients.”

Wall Street’s embrace of new cognitive technologies is causing some to worry about the future of their jobs. But at least in the near term, at places like Morgan Stanley’s research department, artificial intelligence will likely be a welcome help -- and a way to get an edge on analysts at rival firms.

In Bound’s vision, machine-learning software will scour filings and write basic reports, saving humans a few hours each time. Analysts will review the bulletins before publication and add their own brief commentary, he said. The programs also will read transcripts of management conference calls to generate insights and sentiment analysis for their human masters.

Morgan Stanley also is developing a virtual assistant for the firm’s research portal. Initially, it will be able to perform simple requests, like telling clients what the price target is for Tesla Inc. or sending over an earnings model for Apple Inc.

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