Why Wall Street Job Seekers Should Get to Know Philadelphia

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When it comes to managing money, Philadelphia may not be New York, Boston or San Francisco, but it’s not chopped liver either.

The region, including neighboring Delaware and Princeton, N.J., is home to mutual fund giants such as Vanguard. BlackRock, which manages $3.5 trillion, has a large corporate campus near Princeton. Aberdeen Asset Management, which manages more than $270 billion, and old-line firms such as Janney Montgomery Scott and Haverford Trust Co. are also in this area. Many of these firms have open jobs listed on their Web sites.

Getting a foothold in the Philadelphia area, however, is not a walk in the park for out-of-towners, since the talent pool in the region is pretty deep. Plus, many financial markets employers in the region seemed to have avoided the mass layoffs seen on Wall Street.

“Our membership has remained fairly stable," David M. Shepherd, the president of the CFA Society of Philadelphia, tells eFinancialCareers. "The job market is pretty decent in Philadelphia. I don’t think we had any listings on our site at one point.”

However, now, there are about a half dozen. Shepherd adds that there is a diverse employment base in the region, though there are less opportunities for those seeking jobs in hedge funds or “pure investment banking.”

Low to mid-level candidates earning between $60,000 to $100,000 are especially tough to place, according to Lori Hourigan, regional vice president at Robert Half International. “It’s definitely a marked improvement over where it’s been over the past couple of years,” she said. “The really good candidates are going quickly. It’s getting more competitive for employers – that’s for sure.”

One of the region’s draws is its cost of living, which is about half that of Manhattan, though salaries are probably lower as well.

Some firms such as Vanguard view their location as an asset when it comes to recruiting.

“It actually plays to Vanguard's advantage,” said Joshua R. Grandy, a Vanguard spokesman. “We're looking for seasoned professionals. The more tenured applicants are, the more apt they are to consider a suburban location.”

Vanguard expects to hire about as many people in 2012 as it did in 2010, which represented a 20 percent increase over 2010. The firm has about 300 open positions in Pennsylvania including 70 in specialty programs. There are also 10-week full-time paid internships available to students with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

When it comes to Haverford Trust, job seekers are out of luck because the Pennsylvania firm has added seven people in the last year and a half to its staff of 60 or so, according to Chuck Homer,  Haverford’s vice president of marketing.

“If you hire in down markets, you get the reward in up markets,” he said, adding that recent graduates continue to send their resumes to the Radnor, Pa.-based firm.

BlackRock houses many of its portfolio managers in its campus near Princeton. Spokeswoman Bobbie Collins told eFinancialCareers that the New York-based company thinks about hiring across business lines rather than on specific offices. She did note, however, that the asset management business is growing. Several openings at the New Jersey office are listed on BlackRock’s Web site.

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