wallst-movie.jpgThe financial sector meltdown might make some of you wonder if there is a career future for people who work in the world of finance or are in school right now studying to some day become a heavy hitter on Wall Street.

I know, thousands of jobs have already been lost — 10,000 in New York City alone last month — and thousands more layoffs are happening as I write this post at once Wall Street titans such as now bankrupt Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, just bought by Bank of America.

If you listen to the howls of desperation we’ve all been hearing from the media, pundits, and an array of so-called experts, you’d think Wall Street’s entire workforce is headed for the unemployment line.

I decided to get some insights from individuals who have seen and studied major financial sector downturns, and according to most of them Wall Street will continue to be a solid career option for many individuals.

I spoke with Paul A. Wachtel, professor of economics at New York University’s Stern School of Business, this week, and his insights seemed a lot more level-headed.

Wachtel’s take:

“There’s probably going to be a downturn in jobs in the New York financial community and that’s already taken place and will continue. Whether it is an enormous change in the job situation depends upon the resilience of the financial community. The face of industry is changing dramatically as we speak — names that have been around for a 150 years are disappearing off the face of the earth. Other financial institutions are changing dramatically. But it doesn’t mean that grass is going to grow on Wall Street.”

Finance, as a profession, will continue. It might take a year or two for things to calm down, but the jobs will still be there.

Wachtel believes the kinds of jobs that we’ll see on Wall Street will remain fairly similar, other than a reduction in jobs like derivatives trading. But what he believes will change considerably in the next year or so will be the compensation structure of Wall Street jobs that will begin to more closely mirror compensation models in traditional banking.

“The kind of bonus-driven jobs found in investment banking are quite different than the traditional structure in commercial banking where they tend to be more secure and salary driven.”

Basically, with big commercial banks like Bank of America gobbling up so many of these investment banking firms, the workers will have to get used to the little-to-no bonus model.

Tom McLane, RSR Partners, a recruitment and corporate governance consulting firm, points to some job areas that will see some weakness and some strength.

“While investment management is almost dead, there is still some merger and acquisition activity going on requiring investment banker’s advice, but I don’t see any growth in this area for some time. However the areas of wealth management (private bankers) and asset management should be quite strong throughout the next year to five year period. With regard to the jobs landscape over the long-term, the financial services sector always overdoes mass firings, wiping out whole tiers.”

So, there will be career life for the Wall Street working stiff and Wall Street wannabes after this financial storm. Let’s just hope the next generation learns to play by the rules and doesn’t let greed cloud common sense yet again.

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