As the world comes out of the pandemic, it is an opportune time for advisors to prospect for new clients, Anderw Saperstein, co-president and head of wealth management at Morgan Stanley, said during the Bernstein 39th Annual Strategic Decisions Conference.

Despite threats of a possible recession, the economies of the world could be in position for a positive shift in the coming months, and financial firms should be setting themselves up “for a good run coming up,” with most economic factors looking up, Saperstein said in a presentation that covered several aspects of the economy and markets.

Merger and acquisition deals have been delayed by the pandemic, but are not dead, indicating a healthy ecosystem for the industry, he said. “Corporate confidence is growing and retail clients are just waiting for market stabilization” to act, he added.

For Morgan Stanley in particular, “we are only at the starting line. The strongest period of growth is still ahead of us.” he said.

In the past all new client acquisitions were accomplished through financial advisors, but Morgan Stanley changed its business model in 2019 to encompass self-directed investors and workplace plans, he said. The move was productive and should continue to add new business, Saperstein said.

At the same time, investors are now holding 24% of their investment money in cash compared to a more traditional level of 18%. The over-reliance on cash should shift back soon and those assets will be invested, he said. “Organic growth is going to determine the future of firms and should be their focus,” he said. Financial firms, including Morgan Stanley, are “on the cusp of massive growth.”

The immediate situation for the global market is tough, the executive added, “but the nature of markets is to be cyclical” and will now trend upward.

“This is the time to strengthen relationships with clients. If difficult times did not exist, there would be no need for financial advisors,” he said. Put another way, Saperstein added, “if there were always good times, there would be no need for us. This is the time for advisors too shine.”

Morgan Stanley will be open to merger and acquisition deals in the wealth management space, he said.

Addressing the Federal Reserve Board’s recent activity, Saperstein described the interest rate hikes as “unprecedented.” The rate hikes have had a negative impact on bank deposits, as would be expected, he said.

Fintech is sometimes seen as a threat to traditional financial advice, but Saperstein dismissed that idea.

“I don’t worry about fintech. They are actually solving our issues by building technology we need,” he said. “We have a full time team that looks at fintech firms that are potential partners. Artificial intelligence is going to change the way advisors serve clients. We realized early on the fintech is going to drive growth” for financial firms. It will make advisors more efficient and productive, he said.

The future holds unprecedented changes. “We are entering into an era where the pace of change is going to accelerate,” and anyone not accessing AI is going to be lost.