When it became clear that one of the biggest speculative bubbles in history had indeed burst and would stay burst, everyone reckoned that the pain would be intense — particularly on Wall Street, where scores of jobs would surely have to be slashed.

Even bearing dire predictions in mind, few were prepared for the bloodletting that the industry has witnessed. The pain and misery has in fact been staggering. Since its peak level of employment in December of 2000, the securities industry has reduced it work force by about 77,000 or nearly 13 percent.

With so many of those workers still looking for new employment, the burning question becomes: “When is it going to get better?” A recent survey by BrokerHunter.com, the online recruiting site for the securities industry (of which I am president), offers some clues. It's good news if you're a retail broker; if you're a sales assistant of a retail broker, not so much.

The BrokerHunter.com survey polled 129 human resource workers, recruiters and managers at securities firms around the country. Its purpose was to predict trends in hiring and to get a snapshot of current practices relating to broker recruiting and payouts.

The first major question we posed was: “For which jobs do you plan to recruit in the coming year?” Surprisingly, none of the firms indicated it was in a total hiring freeze. More than 90 percent said they plan to hire retail brokers, and about one-third said they would add institutional brokers.

Unfortunately, things do not look so rosy in all sectors of the securities industry. Salaried positions, such as analyst and sales assistant, were targeted early on in the cost-cutting process, and few firms are eager to replace those that were lost. Only 5.6 percent of the surveyed firms planned to hire analysts, and only 22.2 percent said they planned to add sales assistants.

The survey's second goal was to determine if firms are ramping up recruiting in their most important job categories. Nearly half said they plan to hire at least twice as many people in their most important categories. What qualified as “important” varied, but the top three categories were retail broker, institutional broker and branch/sales manager.

Interestingly, independent firms were the most aggressive in this category. About 60 percent of those surveyed indicated they planned to add at least twice as many hires in their most important categories as last year. Regionals said they would increase such hiring by 42.9 percent, banks by 30.8 percent, wirehouses by 27.8 percent.

Aspire to Hire/Percentage of firms that plan to hire each type of employee this year
Registered Broker — Retail 90.5%
Registered Broker — Institutional 33.3
Sales/Branch Managers 31.0
Sales Assistant 22.2
Broker Trainees 19.0
Operations 17.5
Trader 11.9
Marketing 9.5
Compliance/FINOP 8.7
Investment Banking 7.9
Wholesaler 6.3
Information Technology 5.6
Human Resources 5.6
Analysts 5.6
Trainer 1.6
Source: BrokerHunter.com

The third goal of the survey was determining what firms were using as bait to attract new hires. Not surprisingly, none of the independents answered “upfront money,” but nearly 35 percent responded “high payout.” Meanwhile, about 14 percent of wirehouses and regionals dangled up-front money, and they cited that as their single greatest advantage in attracting new talent.

The wirehouses and regionals also emphasized factors you would associate with established companies: culture, work environment, reputation (despite the research scandals) and career opportunities. Independents tended to mention autonomy, freedom from quotas, access to niche products and the ability to build your own team. Banks highlighted the access they afforded to existing customers.

In short, there appears to be encouraging news on the hiring front from the polled firms, and financial advisors can feel somewhat more confident that the job market this year will show a vast improvement over 2002.

Editor's Note: The full results of the survey can be viewed at www.BrokerHunter.com.

Writer's BIO:
Steve Testerman
is president and co-founder of BrokerHunter.com, a securities industry job site. Founded in 2000, it currently provides access to 33,000 resumes and 2,000 job postings. brokerhunter.com