Investors who thought that the return of John Mack to Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MWD) would mean instant and glorious change might be feeling a bit disappointed about now. While the stock is up a bit since his appointment, it feels to this Fool like sentiment has shifted a bit from excitement over his appointment to concerns over the magnitude of the tasks ahead.

All the same, Morgan Stanley's fourth-quarter results were quite good. Revenue surpassed even the high published estimate by more than $200 million, and reported earnings per share were well ahead of the analysts' peg.

The core institutional securities business, with 47% growth, boosted revenue the most. The performance was strong across the board, with good growth in advisory services, underwriting, and trading. Retail brokerage and asset management also posted growth, though not to the extent of the core investment banking franchise. The laggard in the quarter was the Discover credit card business, where a spike in bankruptcy filings and the higher cost of funds hurt results.

With three very different businesses under the same roof, it's a bit of a challenge to compare Morgan Stanley directly to the likes of Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), Bear Stearns (NYSE:BSC), or Merrill Lynch (NYSE:MER). On one hand, Goldman and Bear Stearns are more pure plays on investment banking, Merrill Lynch lacks the credit card business, and companies like Citigroup (NYSE:C) and JPMorganChase (NYSE:JPM) have the sort of very large banking businesses that Morgan Stanley lacks.

In any event, Morgan Stanley doesn't seem badly priced for a turnaround story -- provided that investors have the patience to let Mack execute his plans. In the short term, that will mean an intense focus on better revenue generation and the assumption of more risk. Over the long haul, the plan should translate into better-run businesses and a higher overall return.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).