From the monthly archives:

August 2009

In December, 2008, the Wall Street Journal invited eight investment bankers who had lost their jobs to chronicle their efforts to find new ones in a blog called Laid Off and Looking. All of them had MBA degrees; five had worked in finance at big banks and they had all been unemployed for an average of nine months.

In perhaps another sign that things are beginning to thaw in the financial sector, the Journal reports that half of the original eight bloggers, and three new ones, have found full-time jobs. However, many made significant compromises to land that new job, including taking pay cuts that ranged from 35 percent to as much as 80 percent.

Some took jobs at smaller firms; four changed industries completely. One candidate landed a 40-hour-a-week consulting job, but it doesn’t provide benefits. Others rejected offers that would have required too extreme a pay cut.

Investment banking jobs are out there. But tradeoffs and compromises have become necessary to land them, says Rob Saam, a senior vice president at outplacement firm Lee Hecht Harrison.

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Wall Street refugees are landing investment banking jobs well outside the canyons of Manhattan, according to a report by Bloomberg. More than half have landed jobs at midsize companies, defined as firms with a market capitalizations of between $250 million and $5 billion.

Senior investment bankers, with years of experience and well-established networks of contacts, are moving to boutiques and in many cases, taking client business with them. Some are crossing the Hudson to Jersey City, where Knight Capital Group Inc., has become the biggest US stock trader. Others are venturing farther west to firms such as Stifel Financial Corp. in St. Louis, Mesirow Financial Inc. in suburban Chicago, and others.

The collapse or liquidation of such Wall Street giants as Lehman Brothers, Bear Sterns and Merrill Lynch & Co. has opened up new opportunities for these smaller firms. Knight Capital, for example, is pushing into fixed income. Jefferies Group Inc., a Manhattan-based investment bank for midsize companies, has hired 170 staff since 2008 to beef up their fixed-income trading.

While boutiques are on the rise, some experts say the industry will still be divided between the mid-sized firms and the remaining giants, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Even with recent cutbacks, Goldman is still 150 times bigger than a mid-sized firm such as Mesirow. In fact, net income at Goldman has soared 65 percent this year to a record $3.44 billion on the strength of trading and stock underwriting.

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Don’t overlook smaller or “boutique” investment banks in your investment banking job search. Once the Davids in the world of Investment Banking Goliaths, boutique investment banks are now well positioned to pick up both talent and business from their once large competitors. Boutique firms such as Piper Jaffray, Cowen Group, Lazard, Evercore Partners, and Jefferies Group are in now in a good shape to further carve their niches and compete head to head with the larger players and play a much larger role in the changing financial market landscape.

In fact, several U.S. mergers and acquisitions boutique banks are doing extremely well. Evercore Partners has moved up to 7th on the list, up from 13th last year, while Lazard has moved to 9th place from 11th, according to Other smaller firms have broken into the top 20 list in mergers and acquisitions revenue, including Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin, Greenhill, Keefe Bruyette & Woods and Jefferies & Company.

The best way to land a job at a boutique is through personal networking, according to some insiders. Ask for informational interviews after you’ve carefully studied the firm’s track record and key players.

This networking phone call is one of the most valuable tools in your job search arsenal. You call person in a prospective firm and let them know you are seeking a job in investment banking, with a specific interest in their firm or area of specialization. Ideally, to get a warmer reception, you would hopefully be able to mention that a friend or a colleague of theirs suggested that you call. Ask whether you can take them out to breakfast or lunch to learn about their firm, the types of business challenges they are facing, and what advice they can give you for landing a job.

Granted, you’re going to get plenty of “sorry, but we’re not hiring,” or “this person is not available” responses to your calls. Some suggest leaving a very positive, well-rehearsed message introducing yourself and why you are calling on their voice mail. It pays to be persistent, to have a thick skin, and to understand that this is a numbers game. The more calls you make, the better your chances. You are not looking for them to hire you. You are looking for advice, insight into the job search process, and best, of all, referrals to other people who may be willing to meet with you. Their referrals will open doors.

Always follow up these meetings with prompt thank you notes. Enter the people into your contact management database and let them know how you’re doing over time.

Finally, in addition to boutiques, you might look at banks that are in the higher growth areas right now. These include firms that explore healthcare banking, restructuring, risk management and private wealth management. Asia and the Middle East is a hot spot right now, too.


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Investment Banking Jobs – Contacting Firms

August 10, 2009

Another key step in your investment banking job search will be to begin building a target list of potential employers, and gathering all the background information about them that you can. In early 2009, the New York Times published a list of the top investment banking firms based on M&A deal volume, as researched by […]

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Marketing Jobs and Investment Banking

August 5, 2009

The marketing department within investment banks is also be responsible for supporting the bank’s efforts to recruit new hires. These activities include producing recruitment brochures and website content geared toward MBA and university students interested in pursuing a career in investment banking. In addition to these activities, the marketing staff at an investment bank will […]

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Investment Banking Jobs – Marketing

August 3, 2009

If you have a financial or business background and an interest in sales and marketing, you may be pleased to learn that you can combine these skills within the context of a job in an investment bank‘s marketing department. While the deal makers and traders may get the lion’s share of the attention at investment banks, […]

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