A Banker Considers Her Options

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Kerry Jordan, CFA, has been out of work since January 2008, despite 14 years of experience at FBR Capital Markets, Bank of America, and NASDAQ. You'd think her work in new business development, strategic planning, risk management and raising capital would have left her well-positioned to land a new job quickly. But here's the rub: "Everyone is in retrenchment mode and the few positions that do become available are filled internally," she says. "Second, the recruiters and hiring partners they work with have so many candidates they can be specific about what they want."

That's the way of the world right now. But on top of that, Jordan's 2003 decision to leave her job as principal in the global derivatives products group at BofA still dogs her. When the group moved to Charlotte, N.C., after BofA acquired Fleet Bank, Jordan had to remain in Chicago because she shares custody of her three children with her ex-husband. She used her severance package to travel, volunteer and consider her next moves, deciding at the end of 2005 to get into consumer investment banking. Although she'd generated more than $3 million a year in annual revenues for BofA, it took until January 2007 for Jordan to land her position at FBR Capital Markets, where she served middle-market clients in the apparel, accessories, cosmetics and personal care sectors.

Even today, the result of that path impacts her: "I'm trying to move into the same role with one year of experience, (and banks) have a whole host of resumes from people who've been doing what I want do, only they have 10 years of experience," she observes.

Facing the Downturn

Like tens of thousands of investment bankers, Jordan spends hours each day on the phone, working her network. Locally, she attends CFA Society of Chicago meetings, gaining free admission to events in exchange for writing features for the society's newsletter. She also works with recruiter Shannon Simons at Opus Advisors.

Her efforts seemed to be paying dividends until October, when "everything came to a halt." Interviews stopped, firms stopped responding to inquiries, searches were put on hold and banks began focusing more on laying off than bringing on new talent. On top of that, "I'm at the point where I'm more experienced than someone coming in for a VP-level position, but I don't yet have a substantial enough Rolodex to come in for a higher-level job," she observes. "The level at which I'm qualified isn't in great demand, and there are so many people like me looking."

Facing Stereotypes

It's not that Jordan doesn't interview well. She does. She's personable, quick-witted and attractive. But like many women, she's often put in the position of fielding questions a man would never be asked. If her interviewer is a man, she says, she's invariably asked about her family life. In one recent discussion with an investment bank, the interviewer wanted to know, "Who takes care of your children when you travel?" Perhaps, Jordan muses, he hadn't noticed she'd been commuting to New York for a year during her previous job.

Although Jordan had her answer ready - "I'm very fortunate that I've had the same child care provider for the past 10 years and I'm able to rely upon her and a network I've had in place for a long time." - the interviewer decided she wasn't going to be a good fit. "I could tell he thought the travel was going to be more than he's comfortable with for the mother of three children," she says.

That didn't keep interviewer from suggesting Jordan join him at his lake house for the weekend. "I said it sounded tempting but I had plans," Jordan laughs.

Such incidents don't faze her. "I move on," she says. "All of my career has been spent on a trading floor surrounded by men, or on sales calls where most of the prospects are men, and I can let it roll off my back."

Shifting Targets

If Jordan doesn't find her ideal job by the end of 2009's first quarter, she says she'll adjust her expectations. "My daughter is 16 and until early last March I had four years of college money in a fund for her," she explains. "The way that has dropped is distressing, so in addition to thinking about how to keep the everyday finances going, I have to worry about meeting upcoming larger college payments."

If she has to expand her targets, Jordan will likely consider reverse-engineering her investment banking skills. "I'll find a position at one of the numerous cosmetics or personal care companies that I think will be a great private equity or family fund investment in two or three years," she says. "Then I'll try to attract the attention of a firm like Chrysallis or SF Equity Partners."

One thing that hasn't altered in the past year is Jordan's confidence. "When things calm down," she says, "I'll be attractive again in the marketplace."

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