At Job Fair, Wall Street Greets Washington
Regulators and bailout overseers need market-savvy workers. Laid-off fund managers, research analysts and securitization professionals need jobs. Last Friday, the New York Society of Security Analysts happily played matchmaker.
Thirteen U.S. federal government entities and more than 500 of the society's 11,000 members crowded into NYSSA's midtown Manhattan conference room for a day-long fair showcasing federal career opportunities. The employers ran the gamut from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to the Central Intelligence Agency.
Two years ago, a government jobs fair for Wall Street pros would have been dismissed as a spoof from The Onion. Not now. With large swaths of investment banking in tatters, and the hedge fund and institutional asset management communities still shrinking, federal careers promise stability, balance, and - perhaps most important of all - the chance to play a role in curing the industry's ills and shaping the Wall Street of tomorrow.
What Job-Seekers Came For
A middle-office analyst in transition since last autumn says his recent purchase of a home sensitized him to the issue of mortgage fraud. He planned to visit the FBI table. A young woman laid off last summer from a hedge fund due-diligence role also mentions the FBI. Judging from the length of the lines, though, the most popular potential employers were two that traditionally focus on Wall Street: the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. (The Treasury Department was not represented.)
While dozens of job-seekers waited to see the SEC and the Fed, some agencies' tables were nearly bare. A woman laid off this year from a credit rating firm's asset-backed securities group didn't have to wait long to speak with a representative of the Social Security Administration. The analyst says she's open to all kinds of opportunities. The government could be a good fit, she observes, because ratings and regulatory work have common elements.
Analysts' skill sets apply to a wide variety of positions not thought of as traditionally Wall Street, notes Alvin P. Kressler III, NYSSA's executive director. Kressler came up with the idea of doing a federal jobs fair for members after Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley applied to become regulated bank holding companies last autumn. That sent an unmistakable signal that bank regulators - who "had their hands full even before that" according to Kressler - would have to go on a hiring binge.
CFTC Is Adding 100 Jobs
One beneficiary of expanding regulation is the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. As Congress and the industry race to regulate the gargantuan over-the-counter derivatives business, the CFTC is expanding its 500-person staff by 20 percent - adding mostly analysts with experience in swaps, credit derivatives, mortgage derivatives and other products that currently trade away from listed exchanges. About half the 100 new slots are in Washington, but the agency also has openings in New York, Chicago and Kansas City.
A number of job-seekers appreciate the attention that's coming not just from the feds, but from local government too. Two attendees speak of participating in JumpStart NYC, an entrepreneurial training program launched by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg that pairs laid-off financial professionals with start-up businesses who can use their expertise. Although JumpStart participants work as volunteers in thinly capitalized ventures, the experience can provide useful market intelligence and contacts, one NYSSA member says.
"This is a very difficult job market" for experienced professionals in particular, remarks Gloria Vogel, a former sell-side equity analyst and investor relations manager who co-organized the event for NYSSA's career development committee. Among the 250 or so job-seekers at the morning session, median age looked to be around 40.
"We're beginning to see a reversal toward employers valuing experience," Vogel says. "But there's still a focus on (employing) younger people." The problem, she says, is that employers have reduced or eliminated the formal training they once gave early-career workers.
Vogel says she's thrilled to see the federal careers fair come together. "I feel like a mother whose child has graduated."