Electronic Trading Fuels Growth in Chicago

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Chicago investment firms are finding tough times on Wall Street present a ripe opportunity to expand. Despite large swaths of layoffs in New York, firms like Mesirow Financial are in a recruiting mode, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The firm is in talks with more than 30 financial professionals as it seeks to hire traders, bankers and investment managers. It's already hired several former Bear Stearns executives, including Dominick Mondi, former head of the municipal bond trading desk.

Jim Tyree, Mesirow's chairman and chief executive, said the firm's draw is the fact candidates "can count on us being here as we have been for 70 years." Indeed, while bulge brackets are contracting, employment has held firm in Chicago's trading community, which has benefited from technology-based companies exploiting opportunities fueled by the futures and options exchanges.

Over the past decade, the number of industry jobs in Chicago has climbed by nearly 13 percent, to roughly 46,400, the Tribune says. In large part, this has been due to the advent of electronic trading. A slew of companies have sprung up in the past decade, including online brokerage firms like OptionsXpress and electronic trading programmers such as Trading Technologies, RTS Realtime Systems and Patsystems.

"In New York, financial firms have been hit very hard by the credit crisis, and they're trying to reduce costs," Ilya Talman, president of the executive search firm Roy Talman & Associates, told the newspaper. "In Chicago, we're not seeing it. If anything we're going to benefit from it because there is going to be more of a push into exchange activities. In other words, what ails New York may help Chicago."

Exchanges like the CME Group are attempting to enter the over-the-counter derivatives market, which would increase risk but could also enhance the city's financial profile, the Tribune notes.

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