London Offers Opportunities - Once You Clear Visa Hurdles

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London is a true rival with New York for both financial talent and market share. While Americans who want to live and work in the City can conceivably make the leap, overcoming work-rule challenges that Europeans don't face can make it a difficult proposition.

Currently, strong demand for equity and derivatives specialists has drawn people from Frankfurt and Paris to jobs in London. This need may also offer opportunities for Americans with expertise in credit derivatives and other areas of structured finance. However, a background in senior management would be equally important, recruiters say: Skill sets and experience are still what matter most.

Generally speaking, to land a position American candidates must offer a strong match in terms of talent and experience, or have experience in a market sector that is more uniquely American in nature. Cost is also part of the equation. Since relocating personnel from the U.S. isn't cheap, the talent match must be exceptionally strong.

Mark Pettman, a recruiter for Michael Page International in London, says people with expertise in areas of capital market securitization - such as mortgage-backed securities, tax-structured finance and other types of collateralized debt obligations - might conceivably be able to make the jump. U.S. firms have been leaders in developing new and novel ways to spread risks by securitizing debt instruments, but recent estimates suggest that London is now handling up to 45 percent of the global market for these products.

Recruiters on both sides of the Atlantic say U.K. employers are unlikely to specifically recruit Americans for London positions. For one thing, they'd run afoul of anti-discrimination laws, Pettman says. In addition, no company would be that narrow in its search strategy.

Pettman suggests young Americans seeking to tap the financial job market and willing to take their chances consider applying for a Highly Skilled Migrant Visa via the U.K. Government Web site. "This program is designed to allow highly educated and skilled non-EU nationals to get access to the labor market over here by applying on-line," he says. "The visa is granted without a specific job to go to, so candidates can come to the U.K. and look for work from over here, whereas a work permit is issued for a designated role at a designated firm and is not easily transferable."

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