Chicago Finance Job Market Mixed

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With the economy and markets still on uncertain ground, the financial job market in Chicago remains mixed.

According to Jim Geiger, an executive recruiter with Analytic Recruiting Inc., in New York, the general mood in Chicago is uneven, with high demand in some fields but continued layoffs in others. Areas such as trading and risk management show demand, but hiring in structured products and asset management is slow to non-existent. Job cuts continue for people with less experience, especially in fixed income structured products.

As large firms continue to suffer from the credit crunch, they continue to cut heads. Insiders say sales people at all levels of experience are being laid off in structured products, especially in fixed income. Junior people with less than three years of experience are being let go and are especially vulnerable.

Quants, Trading and Risk Management Hiring

On the other hand, areas such as quantitative fields, trading and risk management are on more solid footing, insiders say. "High frequency algorithmic trading has been active," says Geiger, noting the market is strong for Ph.Ds who can build intra-day transaction models for the financial futures, commodities and equities markets. Also, the market for algorithmic trading and execution is "picking up," he says.

Gieger says such skills are especially attractive in the risk management area. "Risk management quants who have strong programming (skills) to work in conjunction with algorithmic execution or market making models are in demand." Also, some shops need risk management professionals who can evaluate and execute specific securities transactions. Also, Geiger and several other recruiters indicate a need for experienced electronic traders in various product areas.

In addition, they report a moderate level of hiring activity in the compliance and professionals and operations areas.

Hedge Funds Still Hiring - A Bit

One hedge fund manager who declined to be named says that there is hiring at various boutique trading firms, in risk management and trading. Many hedge funds are having a decent year and are adding individuals "opportunistically," and generalists with mid-level experience are attractive candidates. He notes the hedge fund market tends to be fairly insular, and many people find jobs through recommendations from contacts.

Equity Portfolio Managers

In the traditional equity portfolio management area one recruiter says hiring activity is slow. "There's not much need for new stock pickers," he observes. However, Geiger notes equity portfolio managers who have "quant skills to build, manage and market new mutual fund products" are in demand at some firms.

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