NEW YORK Wall Street firms have started to hire again and they can cherry-pick talent from their competitors -- who may be worried about their own security -- or from the legions of professionals who found themselves out of work after last year's financial crisis.
While employers may be in the driver's seat, top talent, as always, is hard to obtain, executives told the Reuters Global Finance Summit this week.
But investment banks, brokerages and start-up firms are eager to seize on the hiring opportunities left behind by the crisis.
Cantor Fitzgerald, for example, is planning a "hiring binge," Chief Executive Howard Lutnick told the summit.
"It would not surprise me if we hire 200 to 400 professionals, and of course all the support staff that goes with them, annually for as far as I can see going forward," Lutnick said.
Several executives referred to the "dislocation" in the industry -- a term that encompasses former employees of collapsed firms like Lehman Brothers and others who, while currently employed, are nervous about their futures. Among the worries are fears of over-regulation by government and dissatisfaction with current pay structures.
"We continue to see lots and lots of resumes," said Lee Fensterstock, the CEO of Broadpoint Gleacher Securities Group Inc BPSG.O, which is also actively hiring.
For new hires, firms like Broadpoint are looking both to their competitors and to the droves of people laid off since the middle of 2007. Financial companies have announced about 400,000 layoffs since the credit crunch really accelerated in mid-2007, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
The pace of Wall Street job losses has slowed considerably, but the industry is not yet adding jobs on a "sustained basis," according to a report this week from the New York State Comptroller. Job losses accelerated in the first half of 2009 before easing in the third quarter, the report said.
Bank analyst Paul Miller at FBR Capital Markets said his telephone has been ringing with calls from headhunters and recruiters.
"Hiring is definitely picking up on Wall Street," Miller said during the summit.
Executives predicted that movement in the industry could accelerate in the spring after employees of big banks see that their compensation is largely in stock, a post-crisis trend.
"Everyone is waiting for their bonus," Lutnick said. "Then they're all going to get their bonus in stock, and then (hiring) is all going to come back again, because they're all going to say, 'Geez, we can't make any money.'"
James Dunne, the senior managing principal at investment bank Sandler O'Neill, said his firm is always in "hiring mode." But Dunne contends that the hiring opportunities might be a bit overblown, especially as they relate to bankers and traders fleeing big banks.
"Really, really good people are always hard to get," Dunne said. "There will be a few more opportunities, but for the most part, I would say 7.5 or eight of those 10 people at those places we don't want in the first place."
(Reporting by Steve Eder, editing by Matthew Lewis)