The new finance career playing field

by Derek Loosvelt | March 31, 2009

To say the least, the landscape for finance job seekers has drastically changed. Some of the largest finance employers have gone bankrupt, been acquired or, at best, are seriously ailing. Unless you've been hiding out in a cave somewhere for the past year and a half, you know that the credit crisis that began in summer 2007 has turned into a full blown financial crisis. Companies have booked billions of losses and shed thousands of employees, meaning finance jobs are harder to come by than in years past. However, contrary to popular opinion, that doesn't mean finance positions aren't out there; they are, but they just might not be in the most obvious of places.

Despite the crisis facing Wall Street and beyond, many U.S. financial services firms as well as companies in other industries with finance divisions are still hiring recent graduates and young finance professionals alike, and even the largest of these firms haven't stopped their campus recruiting efforts. They still need employees, though it is likely that many will hire fewer new employees than they have in recent years.

What’s a job seeker to do?

If you're still at the college level looking to get into finance, there are two important efforts you should be making now. One is to consider adding to your coursework, perhaps even taking on a double major to set yourself apart from other finance job seekers; if there are fewer opportunities at the firms where you want to work, it's more important than ever to create a unique profile. Two, since firms have been increasingly relying on their summer internship programs to source full-time workers, it's recommended to start your full-time employment search early, during your sophomore or junior years (or, which hasn't changed from years past, during your first rather than second year of MBA school). Indeed, securing an internship may be the only way into some firms this year.For those at both the college level and beyond, there are two other actions you should be taking to improve your chances of landing a finance job that suits you. The first is to look outside the borders: although some finance employers might be curtailing their hiring in the United States, many are actively hiring in their overseas outposts. So if you have the stomach to work abroad, you'd be wise to consider the overseas option. Second, don't be afraid to change directions somewhat to look for jobs at smaller firms or in different area of finance, especially if you're finding that the doors to your first area of choice seem to be closing. For example, consider starting out at a middle market investment bank instead of a large one, or getting a job with a Big Four accounting firm rather than a global bank. There are even corporate finance positions available at huge, global product firms as well as at large utility companies. The rule of thumb today is: broaden your options.

Where to look

To that end, below we've compiled a list of firms, broken down by industry, that are all actively looking for finance employees. If you're just beginning your finance job search, or even well into it, these firms are all worth a look.

Financial Services
American Express: This 159-year-old diversified financial company annually books about $30 billion in annual revenue.
Citi Consumer Banking: A $25 billion cash infusion from the U.S. Treasury as part of the Fed's big bailout package should go a long way to assuaging the grief of this firm, which recently lost a battle to Wells Fargo over the desired deposits of Wachovia.
JPMorgan Chase & Co.: Another recipient of billions in capital from the Feds and the new parent of Washington Mutual, JPMorgan Chase is still sailing with a breeze at its back despite disappointing third quarter 2008 results.

Middle Market Investment Banking
Janes Capital Partners: Created in 1997 and headquartered in Irvine, Calif., the firm specializes in transactions in the aerospace and defense sector.
JPS Capital Corporation: Based in Dayton, Ohio, the firm serves middle market private companies with revenue between $10 million and $500 million.
Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc. : With ties all the way back to 1876, this investment bank and brokerage firm caters to corporate and institutional clients as well as individual investors.
Lighthouse Capital Advisors: The firm focuses on working one-on-one with clients, and advising companies on sales and purchases.
Lincoln International: Based in Chicago with offices around the world, the firm advises large and small businesses on private placements, M&A, valuations, corporate finance and restructurings.
McColl Partners: Founded by former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl in 2001, the firm specializes in serving several industries, including aerospace and defense, and technology and media.
Morgan Joseph: While other firms were cutting back in 2008, this firm added a new analytics and trading group.
Mosaic Capital LLC: The firm has worked on more than $3 billion in transactions, and is part of the International Network of Merger and Acquisition Partners, which ranked No. 4 in worldwide middle-market deals in 2007.
Newbury, Piret & Company, Inc.: Since 1981, this Boston-based firm has provided middle-market companies throughout New England with advice on M&A deals, recapitalizations and divestitures.
P&M Corporate Finance, LLC: Since its creation in 1995, the firm has completed more than 300 merger and acquisition and financial advisory transactions.
Penn Capital Group LLC: Based in Pennsylvania and focusing mostly on serving Mid-Atlantic states, the firm also works on a select number of national engagements.
Prairie Capital Advisors: The firm has been a big player on the middle market scene since 1996, when it was created by two former investment banking advisors for Merrill Lynch.
Provident Healthcare Partners: Based in Boston, the firm focuses on serving public and private middle market firms.
Stanford Group, founded in 1995 by Sir Allen Stanford, helps supply its clients with services ranging from private wealth management to institutional investment management.
SPP Capital Partners, created in 1989 to provide private capital deals, works on a number of financing issues, including negotiating creditor issues, payment flexibility and covenant structure.
Watermark Advisors LLC, the brainchild of Hagen Rogers, operates out of offices in New York City and Greenville, S.C.

Accounting
PricewaterhouseCoopers: PwC has 75 offices and approximately 31,000 employees, and ranks No. 2 in revenue among all accounting firms.
Ernst & Young: E&Y ranked No. 1 BusinessWeek's 2008 list of the Best Places to Launch a Career, and has been named to Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For 10 years in a row.
Deloitte & Touche USA: The top accounting firm in terms of prestige according to Vault's 2008 Accounting Survey, Deloitte was also recently named one of Working Mother's 100 Best Companies for the 15th consecutive year.
KPMG: The firm ranked No. 5 on BusinessWeek's 2008 list of the Best Places to Launch a Career, and was named Accountancy Age's Global Firm of the Year in 2007.
Grant Thornton: The firm ranked No. 1 in the Public Accounting Report's second quarter audit rankings, the first time one of the Big Four did not come in first in the ranking.
BDO Seidman : The firm is the U.S. member of BDO International, the fifth-largest accounting and consulting network in the world, with more than 600 member firm offices in 110 countries.
McGladrey & Pullen: The firm and its sister RSM McGladrey are both members of RSM International, the seventh-largest worldwide accounting and consulting organization.
Moss Adams LLP: Based in Seattle, the firm recently named 14 employees as partners, bringing its total number up to 252 (50 of which are women).
Plante & Moran PLLC: Based in Southfield, Mich., the firm has been named to Fortune's list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For 10 years in a row.
Crowe Chizek and Company: Established in the Chicago area in 1986, Crowe touts itself as "the unique alternative to the Big Four" and employs more than 2,400 people in 23 offices in nine states.

Consumer Goods & Technology
3M: Best-known for its Post-It notes, Scotch brand tape and packing materials, 3M is currently hiring interns, entry-level employees and experienced professionals.
Activision Blizzard: Guitar Hero, Quake, Spider-Man, and the Tony Hawk series of skateboard games are among the video game titles put out by Activision Blizzard, which is seeking "talented professionals" as well as "serious gamers" to boost its quality assurance department.
Frito-Lay: Snack giants Frito-Lay are behind some of America's best loved chips, and there's opportunity aplenty for employees to make their mark across a range of brands and businesses once they've established themselves.
General Electric: In its own words, the company is "one of the largest and most diversified technology, media and financial services corporations in the world." Need we say more?
Hewlett Packard: Though the print specialists laid off more than 24,000 employees after it bought EDS for $22 billion, there are still positions going at the firm, not to mention internships.
IBM: The company ranked No. 1 for tech firms on Businessweek's 2007 list of Best Places to Launch a Career, ahead of the likes of Google and Microsoft; part of the accolade may be due to the number of new careers launched at IBM each year--some 15,000.
Johnson & Johnson: The finance division of this $61 billion-in-sales-a-year firm, encompassing more than 250 separate operating companies, hires undergrads for co-ops or internships, and offers leadership development programs for more experienced hires.
Kraft: Though long a subsidiary of the tobacco giant Philip Morris (now Altria), Kraft became an independent company in early 2007; each of its nine divisions has its own finance group, and there are corporate finance units for each functional area (sales, operations, logistics, etc.).
Nestlé: The company's new CEO (installed in April 2008) has said its future growth depends on nutrition, health and wellness products, in addition to accelerated efforts in Central and Eastern Europe. Nestlé USA offers summer internships in purchasing and finance.
PepsiCo: The firm, which collects $39 billion in annual revenue, owns the top sports drink (Gatorade), plastic-bottled water (Aquafina), chilled juice (Tropicana), bottled coffee and tea (Starbucks, Lipton), potato chip (Lay’s) and hot cereal (Quaker Oats).
Procter & Gamble: Ranked No. 23 on the latest Fortune 500, the world's top-spending advertiser says its finance and accounting careers are broad in scope, flexible, and tailored to a hire's individual strengths.
S.C. Johnson & Sons: The firm's products--and what they do--are instantly recognizable: Ziploc, Raid, Shout, Glade, Drano, Off!, Windex, Pledge. For job seekers with some experience under their belts, the company ranked No. 3 on AARP's Best Employers for Workers Over 50 tally for 2008.
Sony: Making everything from game consoles to DVD players, the firm has a sizable accounting and finance unit, which has positions for everyone from interns to experienced professionals.
Unilever: Home to more than 400 food, home and personal care labels, the truly massive Unilever has a formidable finance unit; a new CEO who will take over in January 2009 has been charged with keeping the company on track after a four-year restructuring.

Energy/Gas
Consolidated Edison: The well-known electricity provider for New York City offers internships that can lead to full-time positions through its GOLD program (Growth Opportunities for Leadership Development).
Chevron: Chevron, with operations in more than 180 countries, holds the No. 3 position on the 2008 Fortune 500, right behind rival Exxon Mobil, and with similarly astronomical profits. It's also heavily committed to natural gas, especially in the Asia Pacific region -- in March 2008, it financed a $3.1 billion facility in Thailand.
Exxon Mobil: Ranked No. 2 on the 2007 Fortune 500 list of the biggest companies in America, Exxon Mobil has, reportedly, one of the best benefit packages around.
Solar Turbines: Owned by Caterpillar, Solar Turbines produces gas turbines that service the oil and gas industries--neither of which is likely to disappear during a recession. The company currently has vacancies at many different experience levels.

Insurance
Aetna: The firm is one of the largest managed health care companies in the U.S., with nearly 40 million members and a network of more than 774,000 health care providers.
Cigna: Philadelphia-based CIGNA offers health care products, group life, accident and disability insurance, retirement products and investment management, in addition to behavioral health, vision and dental coverage.
Liberty Mutual: This Boston-based firm is a part of the Fortune 500, and has 41,000 employees and nearly a century of experience.

Manufacturing & Aerospace
The Boeing Company: The world's No. 1 aerospace company raked in $66 billion in 2007, but its work with customers in 145 countries generates sales high enough to make it America's largest exporter.
Corning Inc.: This glass and ceramic maker, which raked in more than $5.8 billion in 2007, has a number of finance vacancies listed on its site, in addition to internship opportunities.

Pharmaceuticals & Biopharmaceuticals
AmGen: AmGen has developed notable drugs like the anti-anemia medication Epogen and rheumatoid arthritis treatment Enbrel; it also treats its employees well, ranking in the top 10 percent of all U.S. companies for paid time off.
Bristol Myers Squibb: The pharmaceuticals giant is a family-friendly employer, and allows jobseekers to filter its current vacancies to find finance- and accounting/audit- specific positions.
Illumina: In 2007, Forbes seriously illuminated this smallish (1,500 employee), San Diego-based biotech company by naming it the fastest-growing company in the U.S., just ahead of the monster that is Google.
Merck & Co: The engine of Merck & Co. is driven by research: it spends about 20 percent of its $24 billion revenue on development every year.

Miscellaneous
Analysis Group, Inc.: The firm has more than 25 years of experience in providing economic, financial and business strategy consulting to corporations, law firms and government entities.
U.S. Census Bureau: Aiming to be the "leading source of quality data about the nation's people and economy," the Bureau annually collects general statistical information from over 100 surveys and has about 12,000 full-time employees.

Filed Under: Finance


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