A Bailout Job Bonanza? Probably Not

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The details around the government's $700 billion rescue package of Wall Street are starting to be filled out, including plans to hire the firms and the professionals needed for the massive undertaking.

This week the Treasury Department chose Bank of New York Mellon to provide a broad range of services for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, including accounting of record for the portfolio, holding of cash and assets, and pricing and valuation services. Chicago-based Ennis Knupp & Associates was chosen as investment counsel, while Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, which has offices in New York and Washington among other cities, was named legal advisor.

Job seekers who want to be on the front lines of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression should keep their enthusiasm in check, says Jay Gaines, president of New York-based recruiter Jay Gaines & Co. For one thing, he observes, many of the firms chosen will likely be leery of quickly adding significant headcount given the current economic climate.

"Whether this will create significant job opportunities or career opportunities is premature," Gaines tells eFinancialCareers News. "It's too early to declare victory or optimism."

Pressure to Get Going

Still, Neel Kashkari, the 35-year-old interim head of the Office of Financial Stability, is under pressure from both his bosses and Congress to move ahead as quickly as possible. What kind of expertise is he looking for? Some hints appeared in a speech he gave Monday.

"First, in order to protect the taxpayers, we will seek the very best in private sector expertise to help execute this program," Kashkari said. "Second, we believe, to the extent possible, everyone should have a right to compete for these contracts, especially small businesses, veteran-owned businesses, and minority and women-owned businesses. Third, we are taking appropriate steps to mitigate potential conflicts of interest."

Obviously, that's a tall order. Bank of New York Mellon Chief Executive Robert P. Kelly said the New York company would "immediately deploy our resources and expertise, joining the team of public and private organizations working hard to earn the trust of the American taxpayer." In an e-mail to eFinancialCareers News, company spokesman Kevin Heine said it would be "premature" to discuss any hiring plans.

On its Web site, Ennis Knupp says it's still "gathering information regarding subcontractor capabilities," including what services will be required. Anyone interested in providing asset management services should contact the Treasury directly, the firm said, and a company spokeswoman declined to comment further. Treasury officials did not respond to request for comment, and a Simpson Thacher spokeswoman could not be reached.

Additional Contracts Loom

Other big contracts remain, including one for a securities asset manager which will hold, manage and ultimately sell the mortgage-backed securities the government will purchase. Pimco - whose star manager Bill Gross volunteered to oversee the bailout for free - and BlackRock are in the running to manage the fund's assets, reports TheStreet.com. The government also is seeking a firm to manage the portfolio of mortgages. More than 100 applications have been submitted by firms for both contracts. A decision is expected soon.

Frank Dadah, general manager for the financial contracts division Winter, Wyman Cos. in New York, believes many companies pursuing bailout-related work may be adding contract or temporary workers. "My gut tells me that you are going to be looking at a lot of compliance jobs," he says. "You will probably see an increase in the mid-levels as well."

For his part, Gaines is optimistic the job market will improve over the long term, even if the rescue doesn't become a jobs bonanza. "This is not the end of the world," he says. "The message to job seekers is not to despair, but to allow the cycle some time."

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