Investment Jobs on Main Street Beckon

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Here's a fresh refuge for Wall Streeters cut adrift by the bank meltdown: managing state and local employee retirement funds.

Public-sector fund employers advertising openings recently include the California Public Employees' Retirement System (Calpers), Teacher Retirement System of Texas, the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, the Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana and the Wyoming Retirement System. Openings range from senior analyst to chief investment officer.

These jobs tend to pay far less than private-sector investment professional roles, whether sell-side or buy-side. The Wall Street Journal reports that Wyoming is seeking a chief investment officer for its $6.1 billion retirement fund, to work for $130,000 base and no bonus. But the public-sector roles offer better job security and shorter work hours. And Wall Street talent that once shunned such opportunities is now flocking in, the Journal reports.

Pension-fund recruiter Mary Hobson of EFL Associates told the WSJ: "I can't recall seeing so much interest from people who count places like Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs as former employers."

Insulated From The Economy - But Not Wholly Immune

Public pension funds continue to receive new cash despite the economy, and don't face redemption requests like private-sector mutual funds or hedge funds do. So their need for portfolio managers and other staff is relatively insulated from economic and market conditions. Meanwhile, what the Journal labels the "glamour gap" between private and public-sector finance may be shrinking along with bankers' bonuses.

But public funds are starting to cut back, too. Texas Teacher Retirement System trustees voted to withhold staff bonuses recently, and the chief investment officer there agreed under pressure to "forego" a $168,000 incentive award he'd earned. That vote occurred soon after state lawmakers criticized the boards of both the teachers' fund and the separate University of Texas endowment for approving bonus payments to investment staff.

If the economy and financial markets remain in the tank, public funds might limit their hiring as well, the Journal warns. Its conclusion: "Interested comers might want to send their resumes soon."

If you do opt for that route, take care you don't act arrogant or superior. And be prepared to prove you'd just love to spend the next three to five years (or longer) in a place like Tallahassee, Fla., or Cheyenne, Wyo. Public employers "don't want someone just looking for a port in the storm," notes Ash Williams, a Florida official and former New York hedge fund manager who has an opening for a fixed-income portfolio manager for the state pension funds.

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