“Sometimes I look at these guys resumes and I say, you’re kind of f—d man,” said Jesse Marrus, founder of Wall Street recruiting site StreetID.
The guys are traders, without a doubt the rowdiest, riskiest bunch on Wall Street with a very singular skill.
And right now demand for that skill is plummeting. The market is quiet so it’s hard for them to make money. Without the money they bring in, shops — banks, hedge funds, trading firms, etc. — can’t afford to keep expensive employees they don’t really need.
So a lot of traders are about to be let go, and since their skills are so niche, there aren’t many place they can go.
Think of this as a game of musical chairs, except the chair is your entire livelihood.
“The first six months of the year were crazy for hiring,” Marrus said, “then it hit the breaks. Hard … If you’re not coming from one of the top funds, CFA, Ivy education, and if you haven’t run $500 million you’re not getting the job.”
Firms don’t mind keeping these positions open for years, either. They want the right candidate, and that’s usually someone younger (think ages 26 to 33 roughly) who hasn’t jumped from shop to shop and fits a specific sector or specialty (casinos, food and beverage what-have-you).
The worst part about this is that it hasn’t been long since the last mass trader culling. Back in 2010, new post-financial crisis regulation forced banks to break up proprietary trading desks. The best traders in the exodus found jobs at hedge funds or smaller, less regulated shops.
Some, especially older more expensive guys, left the Street forever.
The ones that survived that round might not survive this one, especially since the word among hedge fund head hunters is that a lot of traders that made the transition from banks to hedge funds aren’t working out. They don’t always grasp the way hedge funds handle risk or manage portfolios. With hedge fund performance down like it is now, they’ll be the first to go.
“Unfortunately there’s no simple answer,” said Adam Grealish, founder of RoleTroll, a startup that uses algorithms to find jobs for financial professionals. Grealish himself was a quant trader that got let go in the 2010 deluge. That’s when he started building the technology behind RoleTroll.
It helped him get a job at Goldman (GS) in a few months, so he put the project on the back burner. He realized, though, that in this market, it’s too good a project to pass up. He designed his product to be something Wall Streeters could set and forget. Upload your resume and the program does the rest.
It’s especially great for the traders that see the axe before it falls, and are looking for somewhere to land.
“You’re generally out one, two, three times a week with clients,” Grealish said. “You don’t have a lot of time for yourself, and when you do have that time you’re relaxing.”
It’s important to add that technology also plays a role here too. All trading is going electronic. It happened first in the stock market, and now it’s happening in the bond market — the last holdouts still talking on their squawk boxes.
“I’ve had people cry to me, and it’s difficult to hear and I went through in myself,” said Michael Freeburg, a former floor trader who started his own wealth management firm, Greenwich Wealth Management LLC, 13 years ago. “I’m glad I did it before the financial crisis…. Right now I wouldn’t want to be doing it in my 50s.
Freeburg left the Street as electronic trading started to take hold. These days — and in the past four years — he’s getting a lot of calls from people he knew from the floor.
“The fact is, not too many people care about fat cat Wall Streeters losing their jobs and not being able to a make a million bucks or whatever,” Freeburg said, “but they’re real people and it’s real pain and effects their families and it’s painful to watch and hear.”
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