Saturday, September 27, 2008

Where the Jobs Are For Wall Street Pros

As the latest crisis on Wall Street unfolds, recruiters say their phones are ringing off the hook with anxious finance professionals on the line.

The sale of Merrill Lynch & Co. and the bankruptcy-court filing of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. have prompted workers from those firms to launch immediate job searches. Recruiters say newly displaced finance professionals should consider other types of employers or fields, and consider opportunities at smaller banks -- which are ramping up hiring right now.

Case in point: On Monday, the number of ads at for positions at small and middle-market firms shot up by more than 25%, says Robert Graber, chief executive officer of the New York-based job site. Most of the ads were from small and midsize investment banks and hedge funds that are "taking advantage of the turmoil to attract candidates who would normally only move to large institutions," Mr. Graber says. "They almost seem poised to acquire the newly available talent that's out there."

So far this year, the financial sector has announced the largest number of job cuts, roughly 103,000 positions, followed by the auto industry, reports Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a global outplacement consultancy. These losses mainly reflect downsizings at top-tier investment banks. In contrast, many small and middle-market banks, as well as employers specializing in other parts of the financial-services industry, say they are expanding and are eager to capitalize on the sudden outpouring of job hunters.

Among those employers is Gerstein, Fisher & Associates Inc., an independent advisory firm in lower Manhattan with plans to nearly double its 25-person work force over the next 12 months. "This is the biggest opportunity we've ever had," says Gregg S. Fisher, president and chief investment officer, of the flood of high-level, quality candidates who might consider a small firm. He is looking for people who have strong skills in business development, relationship management, analysis, research, trading and operations. "We've been really untouched by all the stuff we're hearing about," he says.

There is a potential downside to moving to a smaller firm. "Typically, initial cash compensation will be lower at smaller firms; however, there is often a greater opportunity to negotiate equity," says Deborah Markus, executive director at Gerson Group, an executive-search firm. There may be more of a salary setback for more junior employees, particularly if they change functions in the new role.

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