The New Migrant: Wall Street Pros Go Where The Jobs Are

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For Wall Street professionals who've lost their jobs - or are worried about losing them - the job market is difficult, but not entirely bleak, recruiters say.

Boutique investment banks, small to mid-sized asset managers, hedge funds and private equity firms are looking to poach talent from the former bulge bracket firms, says John Landers, a New York regional manager for Robert Half, the finance and accounting recruitment firm. A variety of skills, from financial analysis and deal-making to administrative, quantitative and back office, are in some demand at these firms. Job seekers who can point to experience with companies like Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns may have an edge over the competition.

"The good thing about people who worked for these firms is they only hired the best," Landers notes. So, "having those names on their resumes makes them very attractive. Boutique firms couldn't hire those kinds of people in the past because they wanted to work for Lehman Brothers, they wanted to work for Goldman Sachs."

Alternatives to Wall Street

The turmoil of the last year has soured many people on continuing to work on the Street. If you're one of them, ferreting out opportunities in another industry is your greatest challenge. Some commercial banks are still hiring, Landers says, particularly in critical areas like credit analysis, risk management and regulatory compliance. Also looking for talent are "software firms that develop platforms that support" Wall Street, while "insurers are looking for quantitative analysts that have cash-flow experience."

John Mazzei, a veteran financial industry recruiter with Rand Thompson in New York, recently placed a former Lehman banker with a green-energy start up in Connecticut. It's a six-month consulting role that could lead to a permanent position. His task? Help the owner raise additional capital to get the business off the ground.

A little humility on the part of ex-Wall Street pros might be wise, Mazzei suggests.

"There are jobs out there, but you have to think of yourself as a migrant worker; you have to pick yourself up and go where the crops are," he says. "A lot of these people didn't go to Ivy League schools because they wanted to work for Bob's Hedge Fund, but now they have to go to work for firms that don't have brand names."

Corporate Clouds

For general corporate finance jobs, the outlook is cloudy at best. Jonathan Moore, managing director for finance and accounting at Lucas Group in New York, says non-financial companies are being careful about adding staff. Moore, who works with clients in the greater New York metropolitan region, calls the market "cautious."

"We're seeing much less activity on the hiring front," he says. "That's not to say there are not good companies hiring, because there are, but they are not as aggressive as a year ago. I hate to compare it to the 9/11 market, because that was different, but companies in 2002 were moving at a similar pace."

While Moore is seeing a lot more resumes from people with experience at Lehman and Bear Stearns, he says that experience doesn't necessarily give them a leg up with companies outside of Wall Street. However, it can be helpful because those individuals usually have strong education. Some companies are receptive to those candidates, Moore says, although others don't want to see those resumes from a recruiter, in part because they figure they can find them on their own.

Utilize Networking and Recruiters

If you're looking for a job, Moore believes, "personal networks are key." He also advises people to "partner" with recruitment firms that can market their skill sets, particularly for those candidates who want to move to another industry.

"If you are in a situation where you don't have a job, it is important to be in front of as many people as possible," Moore says. "If you do have a job, partner with a recruitment firm, and keep working hard at the job you have now."

In the long run, Landers sees the current market disruption leading to greater opportunities. He cites foreign financial firms like Barclays that are buying devalued U.S. assets.

"This is a realignment of Wall Street, a change of Wall Street," he says. "The dinosaurs are becoming extinct, but overall it is probably going to end up helping the (job) market, much like Sarbanes-Oxley helped (increase) demand for accounting professionals."

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