These are unsettling times in the financial services industry. But times of transition can bring opportunity for job seekers who can adapt to the needs of the market. In the current economic downturn, it’s important to be realistic and to understand that most Wall Street firms are shrinking their workforces in the near-term to adjust to the slower business environment and their projections that 2009 will be no better.
Yet, in the meantime, among all of the dislocations on Wall Street, the good news is that some firms are still hiring. Even some of the same banks dominating the headlines by laying off people across their firms (euphemistically known as “Reduction in Force”) are adding to their ranks in select divisions or recruiting talent from the likes of Lehman Brothers, now known as Barclays.
How can you navigate a job market where the numbers of jobs are shrinking on a net basis? As the chief executive of a search firm operating within the financial services industry, with a focus on top hedge funds, private equity firms, and investment banks, I can assure you that some firms are still hiring.
Who Is Still Hiring?
I suggest identifying the firms that are doing well amidst (or perhaps because of) the turmoil. For example, some mid-sized banks and large commercial banks will benefit from the disappearance of Bear Stearns, the weakening of Lehman [Barclays], and the combinations of Merrill Lynch with Bank of America and of Wachovia with Wells Fargo. There are now fewer players in the industry and the remaining firms will grow in certain respects as they vie to fill the voids left by the now departed and combined.
Firms like J.P. Morgan and Citi are already reaping the rewards: their prime brokerage businesses (the groups that service hedge funds) are growing as hedge funds transfer assets to them; and their private wealth management businesses (the groups that manage assets on behalf of high net worth individuals) are growing rapidly as people seek the security of their franchises.
How Do I Identify the Firms Hiring?
Read business websites and papers such as the Wall Street Journal, the FT, or the New York Times to determine which firms might be benefiting from the structural changes underway. Visit career web sites such as Vault.com and read articles about the new finance career playing field. Also, reconnect with your college or graduate school alumni relations departments in case they can be helpful. Many schools maintain active online job boards where specific, actionable opportunities are posted.
Just as Warren E. Buffett likes to say that it’s essential to “pick your spots” in choosing companies in which to invest, it’s as important to do the same with respect to the conduct of your job search.