MF Global workers stare down a tough job market

Wed Nov 2, 2011 6:01pm EDT

* Many no longer coming in to work

* Recruiters getting flooded with resumes

* Jobs are scarce now

By Lauren Tara LaCapra

NEW YORK, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Workers at MF Global Holdings Ltd have been racing to get hired before thousands of other recently laid-off Wall Street peers.

But with a pile of resumes on hiring managers' desks, the odds of finding a job for many of MF's 2,900 employees in the near term are slim, according to recruiters and competitors who have been interviewing them.

"They're scrambling to find new homes, but the hiring environment is far from welcoming right now," said Gregory Cresci, a recruiter with Odyssey Search Partners, who has been fielding queries from MF workers.

Adam Zoia, founder of the headhunting firm Glocap Search, said his office has received 30 MF Global resumes in the last two days, compared with one or two per month ordinarily.

Some MF Global workers are still coming into their office in Midtown Manhattan to help customers liquidate positions and prepare to move funds to new brokerage firms, clients said. Other employees will sell or unwind positions from MF's proprietary book of business.

But because MF Global is banned from putting on new trades by major exchanges, much of its workforce has been idle since the firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday.

John Lothian, a commodities trading adviser who sends out a daily markets newsletter, said his emails to MF Global contacts received "out of office" responses, even on Friday, as the company's stock plummeted and its viability was in question.

"They were staying home or working from home," he said. "What was the point of coming in?"

Doors have been locked at MF Global's Chicago office since Monday when workers were escorted out, a source familiar with the matter said. Half a dozen employees in New York this week said they had not received any official company guidance about their jobs and were following news reports for updates about the firm.

Some workers joined MF Global weeks before its demise. They are bitter about their bad luck and MF's bankruptcy coming just before the holidays and just before bonus time.

"I just spoke to a guy in fixed income who joined a week and a half ago," said one recruiter. "Maybe he can go back and work for the place he just left, but it will be a tough sell."

Calls and emails sent to MF Global spokespeople were not returned this week.

10 MORE DAYS OF PAY

It is a particularly tough time for MF Global employees to be jobless: financial services firms have announced 54,510 layoffs in the United States this year, according to consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Most major banks have announced cost-cutting measures that include job cuts.

For the next 10 days, MF Global's employees can get paid. A bankruptcy judge on Tuesday approved MF Global's request to use $8 million in cash collateral held by JPMorgan Chase & Co to keep the company running. After that, workers may be left out in the cold entirely and are wasting no time to find another job.

MF Global Chief Executive Jon Corzine tried to transform MF Global from a brokerage that matched up buyers and sellers into an investment bank that bet on markets and carried inventories of securities.

As part of that transformation, Corzine laid off nearly 1,400 employees and hired 1,100 new staffers whose work better suited the business. Total headcount was nearly 2,900 at the end of September, according to an MF Global presentation.

MF Global's rank-and-file employees generally fit into one of two categories, recruiters said: agency traders who mainly facilitated client trades and proprietary traders who placed bets with the firm's own capital.

Employees on the agency side may find new homes at competing brokerage houses like Newedge, ICAP or GFI Group, recruiters said, while prop traders are more likely to land at hedge funds.

Some top performers are hoping for jobs at large trading houses like Goldman Sachs Group Inc , Morgan Stanley or Bank of America Corp , but since those firms are cutting back on staff, it will be more difficult.

"The best chance for a new employer if MF Global is able to sell off some of its units, and employees can stay with the acquiring firm," said Alan Guarino, global sector leader in financial markets at recruiting firm Korn/Ferry.

But as clients prepare to move assets to new trading firms, time is running out.

"Everybody flees while they can because no one wants to get caught up in the liquidation vortex," said Andrew Stoltmann, a bankruptcy attorney in Chicago. "Time is of the essence right now. The firm is basically a wasting asset."

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