Chicago Investment Consulting Market Thriving

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The market for investment consulting jobs in Chicago is strong, with the institutional market holding steady and jobs for consultants who can serve individual clients growing rapidly in both retail and boutique firms.

"The job market for investment consultants has been increasing," says Erin Polczynski, division director in the Chicago office of Robert Half International, an executive search firm specializing in financial services. "We have a quite a few positions for investment consultants open, especially individual consultants at large or retail firms and for financial planners."

Casey Mulligan, manager of banking and financial services for recruiter Michael Page International in Chicago, sees demand in the institutional marketplace "holding steady." While there has not been a pickup in activity, there "has also not been a downturn, which is pretty refreshing in this economy," he says.

Demand in the Individual Client Market

This increase comes as no surprise to Polczynski, who cites a 2007 report on job growth areas which predicted investment consulting and financial planning would be fields with higher demand. The reason for this growth, she says, is investors are becoming savvier as their wealth increases and they want to be more "hands on."

Industry insiders see a definite increase in individual and high-net-worth planning. An ideal candidate needs experience with high-net-worth individuals, generally defined as individuals or couples with a net worth in excess of $1 million.

Polczynski sees more activity not only on the retail side of large national firms, but also in boutique firms that have been popping up in and around Chicago. "There are more and more boutique firms," she observes. "Often two or three successful professionals from a large institution break off and their book follows them... Then they're looking to add to the team."

Estate planning skills, in particular, are becoming more in vogue as Baby Boomers enter or near retirement, says Polczynski.

Institutional Jobs Stable

The turmoil in the financial markets is creating a need for solid staffing in firms that manage pension, foundation or endowment money. Mulligan notes that in rocky markets, institutional investment consultants who can do well in client-facing roles are in demand.

Michael Page is seeing hiring at both large institutional and mid-size or boutique consulting firms, says Stephan Renken, director of the company's Chicago office. Like their individual counterparts, institutional investment consultants must possess a broad mix of skills, including the ability to conduct manager or fund research, perform and explain benchmarking, and have good written and oral communication skills.

"The skills vary from firm to firm because every consulting firm is different," says Mulligan. "In some cases, consultants are expected to develop business and others have dedicated sales forces or the new business comes in at the C-Levels."

Credentials and Compensation

At larger firms, a Series 7 and a 66 license are required, and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), or Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is a plus. In these practices, employers seek candidates with a mix of skills, including traditional and alternative investments, tax, estate planning, and financial planning, including retirement and education strategies. Polczynski says ideal candidates are well rounded, seasoned professionals: "Someone with a wealth of knowledge who can cater to sophisticated clients with varying needs."

In the individual marketplace, salary levels tend to be modest, with bonus or commissions creating the potential for hefty compensation. For retail financial planners, Polczynski says $40,000 - $60,000 salaries are typical. For consultants at larger firms, $60,000 - $90,000 salaries are common, with commissions typically uncapped.

For institutional consulting jobs, Mulligan says CFA designations are generally required and most candidates have an MBA. These jobs tend to have higher compensation, with salaries north of $150,000 and bonus structures which vary widely depending on the firm and job parameters.

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