eFC Briefing: Nailed to Your Desk

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Summer vacations go the way of sub-prime CDO-squared, and for similar reasons (too risky). Bulge-bracket veterans lead FBR's new credit sales and trading unit. Banks slash Chicago headcounts as much as 40 percent.

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The worry that an employer might make your vacation permanent - long part of the scenery for financial services workers - has spread to other industries mired in recession. A survey by travel company Expedia found about 34 percent of Americans forego at least some of their vacation time each year. That compares with 22 percent of French citizens, 24 percent of Germans, and 92 percent of Japanese.

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In a fresh sign of talent migrating from bulge-bracket banks to regional dealers, FBR Capital Markets is launching a credit sales and trading unit staffed by a half-dozen pros from such institutions as Morgan Stanley, UBS and Merrill Lynch/Bank of America. The initial contingent of the credit sales and trading group at Washington, D.C.-based FBR will focus on corporate bonds and bank loans. It's the latest indication the difficult credit environment is actually multiplying career opportunities in the distressed-debt arena, by pulling in many buy-side and even sell-side players.

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Investment banks' Chicago offices are reducing headcounts by up to 40 percent, potentially closing an avenue for leadership development. The Financial Times reports Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse have all made cuts in the Windy City. Publicly, Chicago investment banking recruiters doubt the cuts go as deep as FT's 40 percent figure.

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Is the turnaround at hand? About 25 Harvard University alumni from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels gathered for a networking breakfast in midtown Manhattan. Roughly two-thirds were connected with finance. The hopeful sign is the conspicuous number of voluntary job leavers among them. These intrepid souls equaled or even outnumbered the inevitable layoff victims. The gathering provides one more link in the chain of anecdotes that suggest the economy is bottoming.

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Some young workers may be getting pink slips because employers fear lawsuits if they lay off older workers. The Wall Street Journal cites labor lawyers who advise employers to rely on tenure, better known as "last hired, first fired," when conducting layoffs. Some young childless professionals complain employers are giving " special consideration" to those with families to support.

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For professionals who always worked in the business world, shifting to the public sector means significant cultural changes. Joe Lorono, recruitment manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, says professionals need to possess both patience and adaptability to succeed in the federal work environment. Decisions take longer because the government hierarchy has more levels and technology programs are thoroughly tested and debugged before they go live. That's good news for people who prefer a slower pace and who have perfectionist tendencies, but not so good for people who prefer a fast pace and more autonomy.

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