Chicago Financial Services Job Market is a Mixed Picture

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For financial pros in Chicago, the job outlook there is something of a good news and bad news situation.

The good news is that some big employers including William Blair & Co., Robert W. Baird and Northern Trust, which trimmed 700 jobs last year, have openings listed on their Web sites, as does The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

The bad news is that the hiring is hardly robust. The Chicago CFA Society’s Web site lists about 16 openings. We actually have 71 on ours.

Glacially Slow Hiring

Like other parts of the country, hiring in the financial services sector is proceeding at a slow – make that glacial – pace that is sure to tax the nerves of some job seekers. Recruiters caution job seekers to be patient.

“There is no question that the market continues to be soft,” said Jane Belcher, a volunteer with the CFA Society of Chicago, who is also in the market for work, in an interview, adding that because of consolidation, “there are fewer opportunities than there might have been five, 10 years ago.”

Tough to Get Ahead in Chicago

Getting ahead in Chicago may be tougher than in other parts of the country. According to the Chicago Policy Review, the region’s economic growth has lagged the rest of the country for about a century. It has fallen further behind because of the Great Recession.

“The region’s workforce is aging, labor productivity growth has been sluggish, and a significant skills mismatch has emerged, with firms unable to hire the mix of workers they require, and unemployed or underemployed workers unable to find jobs,” the Web site says.

Pockets of Strength

There are some pockets of strength. The Bank of Montreal, for instance, recently reported better-than-expected quarterly results thanks in part to the strength of its BMO Harris business, which is based in Chicago. Spokesman Jim Kappel said in an e-mail that “as our business continues to grow, we plan to recruit the talent needed to support our customers and growth initiatives. As an example, we announced earlier this year that we are hiring 100 mortgage loan originators by the end of the year to support customers looking for a new loan or refinance an existing loan.”

Prop Trading Restrictions

Another reason why job opportunities may be scarce is the regulatory environment such as restrictions on proprietary trading resulting from the Volcker rule. High-frequency trading, which is big in the region, is in the decline as well. The good news, if you can call it that, is that some banks are starting to hire as the economy meanders through a slow rebound because they fired too many people during the recession.

Some companies also have set “unrealistic” expectations of finding the ideal candidate but can make these demands in Chicago because supply of talent is greater than demand, according to one recruiter. People from the Chicago area that have been laid off on Wall Street may find it difficult to return home. Given the depth of the talent pool in the region, firms prefer local candidates.

Banks Seem to be Running in Place

"Banks seem to be running in place,” said Ilya Talman, president at Roy Talman & Associates Inc., an executive search firm based in Chicago, in an interview. “I have not seen major cuts this year … Some of those people who were laid off were brought back three to six months later.”

Hedge funds and asset managers are hiring for back office jobs such as risk and compliance and in information technology,  Talman said, adding that the overall hiring environment appears to be getting worse. Wealth management and real estate jobs are also available.

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