David Darst speaks to a crowd of students and guest at Goizueta Business School as part of the Dean's Speaker Series. PHOTO: Allison Shirreffs

David Darst’s crisp, polished appearance reinforces his role as a Certified Financial Advisor. But there is more to Darst, Chief Investment Strategist, Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management, than a nose for numbers.

He has the timing of a stand up comedian and is part linguist, historian, dramatic actor, academic, and author (of five books).

He’s straightforward, even with politics.

“We don’t need more stimulus, we need structural reform,” Darst said during an address to students and guests at Goizueta Business School. “We need to take the medicine, shape up and move on.”

Darst was on hand as part of the Dean’s Leadership Speaker Series, and his presentation, “Asset Allocation and Investment Strategy for 2012 and Beyond,” referenced everything from Elton John to The Canterbury Tales.


He began his talk with a bit of advice:

“Never burn bridges,” he said, “Everyone you meet is one of the three Cs — clients, colleagues and competitors.”

Darst gave students and faculty in the audience a brief history of what happened to get the economy to its current state. He then talked  in more detail about the employment picture, debt resolution, deficits, derivatives, a weak dollar and a European Union in flux. He also chronicled some good news: low interest rates, corporate profits, stock piles of cash.

“It will end,” he said of the current state of the economy, noting strategies in investment, valuation and structured reform.

“We need somebody who can work with both sides and someone who can say, ‘No’,” he said of the current U.S. political picture. “We’re not there yet.”

Darst, who earned a degree in economics from Yale, an MBA from Harvard, and the nickname “Mr. Asset Allocations” from his peers, left the audience with one other key observation:

“The end of the world as we’ve known it is not the end of the world,” he said.

Technology and demographics will continue to change, he said. And that’s not all bad. Individuals — and countries — have things they do better than others. “We need to remember that,” he said.

In addition to his current role, Darst serves as Chairman of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney’s Asset Allocation Committee, with responsibility for Asset Allocation and Investment Strategy. He was the founding President of the Morgan Stanley Investment Group.

The Dean’s Leadership Speaker Series offers both undergraduate and graduate students at Goizueta Business School the chance to meet, learn from and interact with current and former business leaders.

– Allison Shirreffs