Hiring Upswing Gets Attention

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A gradual uptick in confidence and hiring by large and mid-size financial players, evident to observers as far back as April, has gained enough momentum to generate a full-blown story in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal.

Among prominent data points: Bank of America says it's added "several thousand jobs" in response to increased mortgage refinancing. Goldman Sachs reports a "moderate uptick" in new hires in recent months. JPMorgan hired nearly 1,000 distressed-loan counselors in the past six months.

The Journal story touches several familiar bases. The hiring pickup is modest and patchy. For instance, JPMorgan and BofA continue to reduce staff in some businesses, while hiring in others. The pickup partly reflects pent-up demand from companies that let go too many people over the past year and a half. And it's concentrated for the most part in business segments where current business is strong, such as restructuring, wealth management and credit.

"It's not for prospective business but existing business," Glocap Search Chief Executive Adam Zoia told the Journal. Demand is most evident for "revenue generators ... who have a book of business with senior-level client contacts or those who have repeatedly demonstrated a track record as profitable traders," adds Peter K. Gonye, who recruits investment banking and private equity professionals for Spencer Stuart.

The story indicates retained-search assignments are on the upswing too. Deborah Markus, founder of search firm Columbus Advisors LLC, says she's hearing from twice as many companies as a year ago. Zoia says hiring is "up materially from the trough" but remains well below its pace of early 2008.

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