The CFA Society’s New York chapter held an event on Thursday to help job seekers gain a better understanding of the current market – where the opportunities currently are in financial services and how to go about finding them. The panel included four recruiters split between the buy-side and the sell-side, two of whom previously worked in banking, as well as a manager at Amazon AWS who’s a CFA charterholder. The audience was predominantly veteran staff, most of whom appeared to be out of work.
Whether you classify yourself in the latter category or not, these were the key points made.
Go for the emerging opportunities and the weed
There are a few somewhat niche areas where unemployed or underemployed bankers can look. Assuming we’re at the late stage of the current credit cycle, private equity firms are preparing for defaults and readying themselves to go into asset recovery mode, according to Ben Jordan, a former Citi banker who now oversees the asset management recruitment business in New York for Whitney Partners. As such, many PE firms are looking to the sell-side for candidates with restructuring advisory backgrounds.
Former Goldman Sachs alum Noah Schwarz, now a senior partner at headhunter Korn Ferry, said his firm just placed a sell-side banker in such a role and one of the candidate’s client references also happened to be a client of the private equity firm. Restructuring appears to be the easiest path for someone from the sell-side to jump to the buy-side. Private equity firms are also looking to profit off distressed debt situations, which is creating additional opportunities, they said.
Another option is looking toward fintech companies, particularly for CFAs who understand things most startups may not, such as scale and risk exposure, said Peter Seremetis, a global account manager for Amazon AWS’ fintech practices group. Crypto exchange Coinbase is one example of a fintech company that has a short history of hiring former bankers. The firm just opened a New York office last fall.
A third avenue in the U.S. is the growing market surrounding cannabis. “It’s not something people have a 20 or 30-year track record with, so firms are having to look elsewhere to look for candidates who have transferable skillsets,” Jordan said.
Take a long hard look at yourself
If you haven’t been in the market for a new finance job in a while, there is one thing recruiters suggest you accomplish before anything else – something they say far too few people do. Take a dispassionate assessment of yourself and decide what you want to do next.
“People in your network are willing to help, but they’re not willing to help you figure out what you want to do,” Seremetis said. This includes recruiters.
Next, list in order the things that are most important to you in a new job, whether it be compensation, commute, work-life balance etc., said Bradlee Benn, a senior headhunter with Russell Reynolds Associates. Then think about your elasticity on each point – exactly how far you are willing to move the needle in each area. If you set those parameters up front, there’s less of a chance of being back on the job hunt in three-to-six months.
Rethink your resume and your interviewing abilities
One thing recruiters see from bankers and other financial professionals who haven’t interviewed in a long while is that they’re often not very good at it. “Interviewing is a learned skill,” said Peter Tannenbaum, founder of Ramax Search. “You need to be prepared to sell your value – here is what I did at my last company and here is what I can do for you.” Tannenbaum recommends veteran financial pros practice talking to people on video conference as that’s now part of the hiring process used at many firms.
Meanwhile, seasoned bankers are also liable to make mistakes with their resume by continuing to add to them but never subtracting. “I see terrible resumes all the time,” Jordan said. List your title and two to three bullet points per role, concentrating on performance metrics rather than going on and on about your role, he said.
Another bad habit of some senior candidates is that they have too much bravado. Benn recalled a recent situation where a CTO candidate was well positioned to get the job but talked down to someone he didn’t consider to be on his level. “The COO loved him…but he completely dismissed or was somewhat patronizing to the CHRO (chief human resources officer). Done. He was done,” Benn said.