For the tens of thousands of unemployed bankers in New York and elsewhere, job hunting may well consume much of 2009.
According to Randy Gulian, founder of Stamford, Conn., executive search firm InSearch Worldwide, which Allegis Group Services Inc. acquired in October, there are hiring bright spots. Top wealth managers are always in demand. Retail product specialists may be as well, as Goldman, Sachs & Co., Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Corp.-owned Merrill Lynch & Co. and other firms expand into retail banking.
The majority of unemployed, though, face a brutal hiring market. "I don't see our clients making any hiring moves at all on the front end -- the traders or M&A [specialists]," says Gulian, whose clients include large corporations and financial services firms.
That doesn't mean there aren't opportunities. Many bankers are consulting, and Gulian says we may see the rise this year of the contract investment banker.
"I'm talking to a lot of them now who are helping out on this deal or that deal. I think you're going to see this whole migrant labor force emerge. You'll see a lot of these people doing pseudo COO jobs, pseudo M&A jobs, for small-sized companies that would never have the ability to hire a big guy from a big bank. The money won't be the same. It may not be $50,000 but it's $10,000."
New hires and those who do have full-time jobs may also see a major compensation adjustment in 2009. "The stars will still be compensated well," says Gulian. "But you'll see the middle ranks compensated at 80% to 90% of historic levels. You'll see the lower ranks compensated at 60% to 70%. We'll probably bump along in this model for '09, 2010 and probably for 2011 as well."
As for M&A market recovery, Gulian expects we'll break out of the "psychological funk" in the first half of 2009, and an uptick in deal activity will follow.For unemployed bankers, that can't come soon enough.