Although many product control jobs look to stay put in Manhattan, professionals in the sector should be alert for ways to signal their value.
Over the past several years, Citigroup's corporate and investment bank has moved several of its product control groups from downtown Manhattan to Amherst, N.Y., a suburb of Buffalo. At first glance, this may appear to be part of the larger trend of financial services firms transferring functions to locations beyond the N.Y. metro area. The trend has been driven by the push to lower operating costs and achieve greater "geographical diversity" to mitigate risks of business disruption from terrorism, blackouts, natural disasters, and other unforeseeable problems.
James Brown, a labor market analyst with the New York State Department of Labor, said that although there is no "master list" of finance jobs impacted, there is a definite trend of finance jobs leaving New York City for less expensive locales such as northern New Jersey, Connecticut and upstate New York. However, several financial recruiting firms contacted by eFinancialCareers indicate the phenomenon seems limited to back office and operations functions.
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However, product control is different. It's uniquely situated through P&L reporting and other control responsibilities for close monitoring and interaction with trading desk and business heads. For this reason, Citigroup's move both appears unique and begs the question: Is it an anomaly, or does it represent the future?
Quite possibly the former, according to Jim Geiger, an executive recruiter at Analytic Recruiting in New York, who notes other firms haven't made similar moves. After all, product control is the first line of defense in control and risk management, and to move it to a new locale, with a potentially less experienced employee base and where distance may hamper oversight, can be risky. Recent news events only serve to highlight the function's value and the need for close proximity to trading floors, says Geiger.
Although Citigroup's GCIB media relations didn't return calls, a former product control employee there (who did not wish to be named) indicated the bank has moved only cash product control groups like equities, and treasury/agency bonds to Amherst. Senior management has advised employees that more complex product groups, such as derivatives, would be staying in New York City, the former employee says.
While this remains to be seen, product controllers would do well to make themselves as much an asset to their firms as possible. In-depth product knowledge and strong analytic skills that go beyond the mechanics of report production are always in demand, and can set an employee apart.
Furthermore, it's often economically beneficial for firms to retain valuable employees and transfer them internally, rather than lose them when relocations do occur. For employees, this highlights the importance of making their product knowledge and analytic skills known to potential hiring managers throughout the firm. Such networking is invaluable to long-term career growth, as well as good insurance against the potential of future "geographical diversity."