At a time when financial firms are increasingly hiring veterans, one corporate finance-focused broker-dealer is concentrating on securing financial services jobs for those who've been injured on duty-often significantly so.
Founded in 2008, Drexel Hamilton is a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) with offices on Wall Street and Philadelphia. The company's chairman and CEO, Lawrence K. Doll, is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Vet and the recipient of two Purple Hearts. The company's 38-person workforce includes at least eight veterans who were injured in battle, James Cahill, the company's president, tells eFinancialCareers.
Drexel Hamilton will still sometimes hire former vets who don't find good enough opportunities at other Wall Street firms. However, its real goal is to cooperate with the Wall Street Warfighters Foundation to secure appropriate positions for wounded veterans outside its own circle of employees-at places such as J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs, both of which have been supportive of Drexel Hamilton's cause.
Cahill-a former Solomon Bros. executive who lost a son to the horrors of 9/11-notes that Goldman went so far as to put up part of the money to capitalize Drexel Hamilton and get it off the ground.
The challenges here are as heart wrenching as they are critical. The foundation will "go around to burn units," says Cahill, and bring in those interested in getting their Series 7 license, among other things they need to be successful in finance. The ultimate goal is to secure more hiring of veterans who've been so seriously hurt they sometimes return home without ears, arms or legs.
Eric Eberth, one of Drexel Hamilton's hires, told the New York Post last week that following 13 years in the military-including Air Force and Apache Longbow helicopter pilot duty and a deployment to Iraq that left him with spinal cord damage and brain injury-he found the only jobs available to him were in government.
That wasn't part of his dream, having graduated from a Florida business school, and he set his sights on finance. In fact, Eberth confided that he was getting nowhere fast until he connected with the Wall Street Warfighters Foundation, which offers a program specifically designed to prepare disabled veterans for careers in financial services.
Based in Philadelphia, the foundation offers a six-month in-residence course which includes class work, field work, exam preparation and testing, mentorship and internships. To participate, one must have done service in Iraq or Afghanistan and be living with a significant, 30 percent disability, the Post reported. Cahill said that figure is about right, though often one's wounds go beyond the physical, and that for those interested in the training, mental distress can be taken into account as well.
"The goal is to have classes of five to six people, four times a year," he says.
Eberth currently works in municipal finance at Drexel Hamilton and is being trained by Tom Mead, a financial advisor to the New York City Municipal Water Finance Authority for the last 20 years. Eberth suffers seizures from time to time. Otherwise, "you'd never know" he had a medical condition of any kind.
Hiring an injured veteran is a real coup for Wall Street firms, says Richard Lipstein of Boyden Global Executive Search, who attended a recent event held by the Wall Street Fighters Foundation and the New York Society of Security Analysts, where Lipstein is a member of the NYSSA board of directors.
"In my 22 years of experience as a recruiter, I've always felt that those with military training made candidates better prepared for the pressures of Wall Street," Lipstein told eFinancialCareers. "Pressure on the trading floor is nothing compared with keeping yourself alive on the battlefield."
And the timing is right, he says, since "Today, unlike after the Vietnam war, there is a true appreciation for the role of the veteran-perhaps the most since the end of World War II."
The timing is also legislatively favorable. Currently, the average jobless rate across the U.S. among post-9/11 vets is 11.5 percent, but the rate is 15.2 percent in New York State.
To help address the issue of veterans returning home to find a dismal job market, the U.S. Senate recently passed a portion of President Barack Obama's jobs bill and voted overwhelmingly to approve legislation to award tax credits of up to $9,600 to companies that hire disabled veterans who have been job-hunting for at least half a year and to strengthen employment counseling and training programs for vets and troops about to leave the military. The president is currently urging the House to follow the Senate's lead.