Seattle and Portland Job Markets are Improving

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The investment management business in the Pacific Northwest has shrunk in recent years because of industry consolidated and assets under management fell amidst a volatile stock market.  Nonetheless, hiring is starting to pick up somewhat for investment professionals in the Seattle and Portland areas.

Big firms in the area such as Russell Investments, Jennison Associates and Ferguson Wellman are in a hiring mode. Fisher Investments, which opened an office in Camas, Wash. in 2007, has openings there. Smaller firms are also looking to add people, according to recruiters. Employers prefer to recruit candidates from the area, though they will conduct national searches for top-level jobs.

Demand appears to be especially strong for sales and marketing professionals, whose ranks have been depleted because of layoffs following the Great Recession. Analysts and portfolio manager jobs are more difficult to place, though there are positions available in those areas as well, according to Seattle recruiter Kristen Schriver.

“We have placed candidates across the board from portfolio managers, analysts, marketing professionals, operations and HR staff,” writes Schriver of Investment Management Recruiters of Seattle in an e-mail. “The trend has been comprehensive hiring across all positions within the investment management space. However, some firms are still plagued by continued underperformance and the spiraling problem of redemptions. We are sad to see Mastholm Asset Management, a long-standing Seattle international growth manager, closing its doors this month.”

Portland-based Ferguson Wellman is looking to hire an experienced fixed-income manager. The company believes that there is a strong enough talent pool in the region and does not expect to need to do a national search, according to COO Steve Holwerda.

“Firms that were able to grow through the downturn, and we were one of them, are fiding places where we need to selectively hire,” he said.

Portland-based Becker Capital Managenent plans to hire an analyst later in the year, according to President Pat Becker Jr.

“It’s been six [to] seven years since we hired an analyst,” he said.

In small job markets like the Pacific Northwest, networking is key as is flexibility. Job seekers also might try their luck at a related business such as Intellectual Ventures, a Washington firm that acquires and licenses intellectual property. Its Web site lists several positions under acquisitions which require deal-making experience. A company spokesperson couldn’t immediately be reached.

Activity in Portland is also up, according to Allen Bond of the CFA Society of Portland, which has seen nine jobs posted on its job board in the past month.

“Actually, that’s quite a bit higher than where it’s been,” he said in an interview. “Portland is a tricky market. The job market tends to be by appointment.”

The hiring is far from robust. Recruiters also caution job seekers, particularly those who are not currently employed, to keep their salary expectations realistic.

“Candidates seem to have resigned themselves to understand that gone are the days of paying lofty salaries to attract talent, signing bonuses, two-year guarantees and guaranteed annual bonuses,” according to Shriver. “We talk with many employees [typically embedded in larger firms] who would love to leave their current role but feel quite trapped because they can’t walk out the door without significant risk in rebuilding that income stream.”