Financial Services Hiring Slowly Picking Up in San Francisco

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The job market for financial services professionals continues to improve in many parts of the country, and the San Francisco area is no exception. Recruiters, however, warn that the pace of hiring is not as robust as it was before the economic slowdown and that employers are being more picky about whom they hire.

Hiring activity is picking up at venture capital and investment banks, though it seems to be erratic, varying month-to-month as employers seek a clearer signal that the economic recovery is sustainable. Large firms also remain more skittish about adding workers than smaller companies.

"The smaller regional banks are doing the majority of the hiring," Jodi Chavez, senior vice president at Accounting Principals, told eFinancialCareers. "The larger banks are not as consistent as they have been."

One reason why hiring is not robust at larger banks is that they are pretty lean already. For instance, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo announced plans last year to pare $1.5 billion in quarterly expenses and cut technology and operations jobs. Bank of America's plans to slash 40,000 jobs didn’t leave San Francisco, where it was based for years, unscathed either.

Demand for quant and risk management jobs are increasing as they are in other parts of the country because of Dodd-Frank. Fund accounting opportunities are also available, though analyst positions seem to be scarce.

People who left their hearts in San Francisco be forewarned: Many firms are only interested in interviewing local candidates because the candidate pool is pretty deep in the Bay Area, especially given California’s high unemployment rate.

“If you don’t live here, it’s hard to get a job here,” said Diane Berger, director of sales and marketing at DM Stone Recruitment Solutions, a specialty recruiting firm based in San Francisco. The exceptions are the rare candidates who “have a skill that nobody else has.”

Even the firms that are hiring are not looking to spend big bucks. Many candidates are surprised to learn that they may have to accept contract work or not be employed at all, according to Berger.

“They want to go the contract route unless it’s a huge high-end job,” she said. “Even the contract positions are very specific.”

Bright spots include venture capital firms

There are a few bright spots such as venture capital but although firms are hiring, Berger notes that “it’s not like it was in the 1990s when they threw money at everybody.” Companies in the Bay Area are looking to add to their corporate finance departments, which is good news for some candidates such as senior accountant candidates with expertise in areas such as taxation.

Berger and other recruiters such as Gene Kim, Director of Permanent Placement Services at Robert Half International, are seeing candidates in San Francisco seek jobs in New York because there are more opportunities there. Of course, many ex-Wall Streeters head West to try their luck in Silicon Valley or in the region’s clean energy and biotech sectors.

Kim, for his part, remains optimistic that the job market in the Bay Area will improve and is seeing slight increases in hiring demand in areas such as REITS and asset managers.

"Earlier, a lot of our clients said we need to hire and hire fast,” Kim said, adding that many took a break in adding workers, though now “I am feeling another wave of hiring coming on.”

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