Finance hopefuls worry as career positions wane

The preface the recruiter gave to Adam Metzger ’08 at his final-round interview with a prominent investment bank did not sound promising.

“Before they even began they said to me, ‘Adam, you’ve been reading the paper. You know the state of things. We’re serious about you, but we may not be in a position to give fresh offers,’ ” Metzger said.

Although Metzger has since accepted an offer from Deutsche Bank, where he interned over the summer, many of his finance-minded friends have not been as lucky. After this summer’s sub-prime mortgage crisis, job cuts have become common in the lagging market.

And seniors who have not received offers from summer companies are worried.

Between January and September, a record 130,000 jobs were cut from financial institutions, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement consulting firm. In the face of such drastic downsizing, many in the industry — and the students hoping to break into it — believe the entering class of I-bankers will be affected.

“In the midst of that cutting back, these banks will certainly be on pressure to hold back on hiring,” John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas said.

Jane Levy ’08, who accepted her summer offer from a major investment bank, said most of her friends who accepted jobs in finance received their jobs from firms where they worked over the summer. The high number of her friends who have accepted summer offers is a result of both the difficulty of the market and the generally higher quality of the offers compared to what is available in the fall, she said.

Ben Cooke ’08, who is currently deciding between finance jobs, said his friends who did not receive summer offers have come face to face with the reality of a weaker job market.

“All my friends who went through the process got their offers this summer,” Cooke said. “The rest are still figuring things out.”

But for Jordan Kornberg, a senior at Duke University, receiving a fresh offer from Deutsche Bank was a dream come true, since he was among just 10 hirees who did not intern there over the summer. While the recruiting scene at Duke is still active this year, Kornberg said, it is made up mostly of smaller banks, and many of his classmates who did not receive a summer offer will have to settle for less prestigious firms.

Although many students interviewed attributed the difficulty of obtaining an offer to a poor economy and reduced hiring, Gia Moron, a media representative for Goldman Sachs, said the reduced fall job market is not the result of a decline in jobs but rather a change in recruiting strategy — one that focuses on summer hiring.

“We anticipate that the number of students hired from the full-time recruiting process will continue to decline,” Moron wrote in an e-mail.

Although hiring may slow in the banking industry as a whole, Challenger said some areas of banking will be affected more than others.

“Many banks are going to need to expand their risk-management functions,” Challenger said. “That’s an area where there will be real hiring growth.”

Hunter Swartz ’07, an investment banker at a major New York firm that he requested not be named because of company policy, agreed with Challenger’s assessment of the hiring climate.

“These banks have to be more careful in managing risks,” Swartz said. “Quantitative backgrounds are probably going to be pretty desirable.”

But Christine Geiser ’07, who works in private loss management and as a recruiter for a major New York bank, predicted that overall hiring will decline for next year. This year’s class, Geiser said, was the largest her bank had ever seen, but since then the firm has seen widespread layoffs and will probably hire fewer new employees.

Even once they have secured jobs, the entering class of bankers may face other problems. In Geiser’s bank, the pile of work for entering bankers has increased significantly following substantial cuts in the number of current associates, she said.

“[The fixed-income desk] job description was supposed to be from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and they’re now working until 10 and on weekends to pick up the slack,” Geiser said. “It’s really hard for them.”

On campus, students interviewed said reduced interviews and talk of job cuts have developed into a culture of uncertainty. Lehman Brothers, a regular recruiter at Yale, canceled its on-campus interviews altogether, and students said they have noticed reductions in interviews from even those banks that made it to campus.

Officials at University Career Services did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Adam Nelson ’08, who will be working at Piper Jaffrey Companies in the fall, said the drop in the number of on-campus interviews was apparent at every step of the process.

“A lot of banks started with four days of interview slots and then cut it down to one or two days,” Nelson said. “Just due to the reduction in initial interviews, there seemed to be fewer final rounds.”

One Yale senior, who asked to remain anonymous, said students “should feel lucky” to get a single job offer this year.

“Where you used to see people getting three or four offers … they’re now being forced to take the one offer they’re getting,” he said. “[People] have little say in where they’ll be working.”

With hires for banks lagging, several students said they think banking hopefuls will turn to consulting in search of job offers.

“I know a lot of people going through the process, and a lot of them are going into consulting because there aren’t a lot of slots in the banks,” Nelson said. “I think their recollection is that the consulting hiring hasn’t changed from recent years.”

For Metzger, his summer offer has made all the difference in his banking future.

“Every day I thank the heavens for it,” Metzger said. “It’s made the interview process a lot more carefree and enjoyable — just to learn and get better.”

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