Bankers Take Refuge In Wordsmithing

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Here's a stopgap for laid-off financial professionals - become a financial writer. It's probably best suited for those from research backgrounds, who are well practiced at writing for an audience wider than many of their colleagues.

Two recent migrants are former hedge fund manager Paul Sharma and former microfinance business owner Donna Childs. Both joined Dow Jones Newswires as columnists, according to an April 28 press release that mentions the media company's "overarching strategy to enhance our editorial teams with top industry talent."

Sharma, who writes on telecommunications, media and technology from London, had most recently managed a telecom value fund at Cheyne Capital. Childs, a financial services columnist, led Childs Capital LLC, which she founded in 1998. She's also been an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and a director at Swiss Re.

The Roman a Clef Option

Tetsuya Ishikawa took a different tack when jumping to finance writing. The laid-off MBS structurer, whose resume includes stints at Goldman and Morgan Stanley, has published what's described as a "lightly fictionalized" book, How I Caused The Credit Crunch. Last year another ex-banker, Geraint Anderson, put out an autobiographical novel, Cityboy, also set in London.

Daniel M. Harrison, who reviewed How I Caused The Credit Crunch for BNET, believes the genre has room to run: "You can bet that it won't be the last of the biographies detailing the meltdown" to hit the best-seller list, he writes.

Last month we discussed the option of blogging, whether as an independent owner or as a freelance contributor, which for most offers only a faint prospect of supporting oneself financially.

Joining a mainstream media organization as a writer or editor has challenges of its own. The most evident is that news media jobs and companies are evaporating even faster than financial-sector jobs. But just as in banking, the surviving firms seem to be making opportunistic hires.

A Potential Revolving Door

From the finance pro's standpoint, journalism work requires regular contact with the day-to-day finance world and its people - which could ease the path for a job-seeker to eventually return to his or her first love.

For a financial news organization, hiring finance pros has natural appeal. They have transferable skills in the form of writing, analysis and industry contacts. They know the subject far better than any reporter or editor who never worked in finance, though this can also be a handicap: Some specialists have trouble translating their thoughts into laymen's terms. And some analysts, strategists and fund managers already enjoy visibility that helps build readership.

Two of the best-known names in today's financial media - James Cramer and Rick Santelli, both of CNBC - had successful careers in finance before their current positions (although Cramer had been a newspaper reporter before attending law school and taking up finance).

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