Opportunities Open in Smaller Firms as Big Banks Sweat Layoffs

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Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 1.2 percent rise in U.S. securities industry employment during the second quarterbig banks simply aren't the best place to look for new spots right now.

The reason: They're continuing to retool post-meltdown, says John Mazzei, managing director and head of the financial institutions group for Rand Thompson Consultants. "The large global banks aren't hiring just yet, as they're coming to the end of their year," he observes.

Instead, set your sights on some of the tinier players. Mazzei says that new opportunities are cropping up at smaller asset management firms and broker-dealers, as well as at regional investment banks. In fact, Mazzei says his phones are very, very busy with employers looking for seasoned candidates.

"Everyone's looking to differentiate their asset base, so an asset gatherer is helpful," he says. Typically, these spots are for people with significant investor relationships and a proven track record of raising funds. An entrepreneurial streak is key. And, Mazzei notes, there are always additional posts for individuals with financial acumen at businesses outside of the banks and investment world. "There are always non-financial firms trying to get a hold of this sort of talent."

Risk management and credit risk posts are always big, especially at banks and investment firms still worried about their book of business. "They simply don't want to replay the mistakes of the past," says Ed Koch, managing director for Addison Search. Typically, these are midcareer folks with five to 10 years of experience.. Plus, financial professionals with significant IT expertise geared to banking and asset management are always going to find a place, Koch says.

But identifying the best opportunities can be a challenge, given the commoditization of jobs on Wall Street. Those looking for more creative and higher paying positions - spots with authority and money/decision-making responsibility - may need to be more thoughtful about what the job description really says. Look to the specifics, Mazzei advises.

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