Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Archive for the ‘Banking Careers’ Category

Vault’ s Careers Blog is Moving

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An announcement: after almost a year on WordPress, we’re discontinuing Vault’s Careers Blog on WordPress. But don’t worry: you’ll still be able to get your fill of career information and advice on Vault.com–where our blogs are going from strength to strength.

Our full blog lineup on Vault.com is as follows:

Vault’s Careers Blog
Vault’s Law Blog
Consult THIS: Consulting Careers, News and Views
In Good Company: Vault’s CSR blog
In the Black: Vault’s Finance Careers Blog
Admit One: Vault’s MBA, Law School and College Blog
Insider Career Advice from SixFigureStart
Innovate with Influence: Global High Tech

Thanks for reading us on WordPress.

We hope to see you over on Vault.com soon!

–The Vault Editorial Team

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Where the Women Aren’t: The Banking C-Suite

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October is Carl Paladino National Diversity Month, so we decided to go back to the data we collected in our most recent Banking Survey and see if we couldn’t find a few fitting pieces to offer up in honor of these holy 31 days.

First, what we found, unsurprisingly, is a marked lack of women in the banking workplace. Somewhat surprising, though, was that this lack of women increases as you go up the banking org chart. That is, as you’ll see in the graphic below, of those bankers surveyed, 26 percent identified themselves as women. But of those surveyed who hold executive positions, only 11 percent identified themselves as women. The takeaway here is that females are still underrepresented at the top financial firms, and are severely underrepresented in the higher ranks at the top financial firms.

Vault.com 2010 banking diversity gender

Second we found (again unsurprisingly) that the ethnic group that accounts for most (almost three quarters) of the entire banking industry is none other than the white male. However, interestingly, we found that the white male is far better represented in the banking industry than it is in the general population—almost 10 percent greater as you can see in the graphic below. In addition, Asians, the second largest ethnic group in banking, are also far better represented in the industry than they are in the wider U.S. population—about three times greater, in fact. On the other side of this diversity story, Hispanic individuals and African-Americans are severely underrepresented in the banking industry versus their representation in the wider population.

 

Vault.com ethnic diversity of finance industry 2010

Third, we found a large lack of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals in banking. Given that banking is perhaps one of, if not the most politically conservative industries in the United States, this might not come as that much of a surprise, but still, you would think that the lack might not be as significant as the pie chart below indicates: just 1 percent of the more than 2,200 bankers surveyed had identified themselves as an openly GLBT individual. Which begs the question: are GLBT individuals not welcome into the banking industry, not interested in the industry, or both?

Vault.com 2010 banking diversity GLBT

–Posted by Derek Loosvelt, In The Black

10 Frightening Realities of the Post-Recession Economy

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The recession ended in June 2009. Did you notice? Chances are you probably didn’t—especially if you’ve been looking for a job. The bad news: things aren’t likely to get much better any time soon; current economic growth rates mean the unemployment rate will do well to drop by much more than a single percentage point by the end of 2011.

All of that is likely to continue reshaping the employment market, and will affect everything from your ability to conduct a salary negotiation to the pace at which you can expect to climb the ladder—or even get on it in the first place.

So what’s a job seeker to do? Vault’s industry and career experts put their heads together and identified a number of key trends that will affect careerists over both the short and medium term.

1. Doing more with less

In season five of the brilliant HBO series “The Wire,” the tight-belted, high-waisted head of the fictionalized Baltimore Sun declares, upon announcing a paper-wide job cut, that “we will simply have to do more with less.” It’s a quote that could serve as a template of companies both large and small in the post-recession era. After sacking thousands of employees in order to cuts costs, pummeling employee morale in the process, managers focusing on the bottom line will be hesitant to hire more bodies in order to explore more avenues of business, even when profits begin to pick up. Instead, they’ll simply turn to their existing employees, put a cool hand on their shoulders, smile, and ask them to take on increased duties.

2. Held back by housing

The recession may have ended in June 2009, but a little over a year later, The National Association of Realtors reported sales of previously occupied homes plummeted 27 percent in July 2010, the worst showing in 15 years. So, despite the good news, unemployed job seekers struggling to pay their mortgage still have fewer options for their job search. For them, it’s either find a job where they live or accept a job elsewhere, relocate and add on the extra expense of paying rent while they wait for their home to sell.

3. Choose your education carefully

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that applications to school surge during a recession. There are no jobs, so why not get more training and make yourself a better candidate when there are jobs? Makes sense, right? In the past two years, prospective students applied to graduate schools in droves; particularly to law, business and health services degrees. While health care is one of the fastest growing industries and will likely be able to handle the influx of new graduates, the law, finance and consulting industries will not. It’s unlikely, however, that this will deter prospective students from applying this fall—and next.

4. Age diversity

An aging workforce is going to continue to be a big challenge for employers, who increasingly prefer to cut costs on training for new positions. Compounding this is the fact that people are delaying retirement because of the recession. While gender and racial discrimination will remain critical concerns, age diversity presents a new challenge for the corporate world.

5. The finance industry

Don’t let the National Bureau of Economic Research fool you. Although GDP might have hit bottom more than a year ago, and we’re technically in an expanding economy, the US still looks very recession-like to the record numbers of men and women out of work, as well as to those still employed. And nowhere does the immediate outlook worse than in finance.

Hedge funds are currently experiencing their worse year on record, collectively growing assets by a mere 1.7 percent thus far in 2010; and Merrill Lynch recently estimated that as many as 20 percent of hedge funds could shutter by the first quarter 2011. Meanwhile, following deep job cuts in 2008, investment banks started to hire again in 2009. But now with markets ice cold—and predicted to stay that way at least until 2011—firms might be significantly cutting back again. Bank of America, for one, is in the midst of 1a large job cut, reportedly sacking 5 percent of its capital markets staff, and some analysts believe that other banks, afraid of the cooling markets, if not a double dip, might not be too far behind.

6. The legal sector

In the legal sector, 2009 saw a dramatic drop in hiring—a trend that has continued into 2010, with entry-level hiring not likely to return to pre-recession levels any time soon. Law firms have adopted a variety of solutions to maintain a smaller, more efficient workforce. Many of these solutions will likely survive beyond the recession, and affect law firm infrastructure, professional development, compensation and recruitment.

In addition to cost-cutting moves like the consolidation and relocation of back-office functions, other measures include a shift from traditional lock-step salary structures toward performance-based compensation systems. Many firms now offer alternative, non-partnership career tracks or have established apprenticeships for new lawyers. On the recruiting side, behavioral interviewing techniques are gaining popularity as a means of identifying candidates who will, in the words of one law firm hiring partner, “be able to deliver client service on day one.”

7. More short term jobs

The recession might be over, but unemployment figures have remained the same. This has forced Americans to look at jobs differently, with many accepting temporary and part-time positions rather than holding out for full-time permanent work. That’s helped the underemployment rate to remain sky-high—it’s currently over 18 percent—and there are no signs of it changing anytime soon: retailers are expected to hire up to 650,000 temporary workers this holiday season.

Toys R Us is an example of a company that is going even further: it plans to open 350 temporary “Holiday Express” stores by early October, creating 1,000 temporary retail positions. Other temporary positions are expected to become available during the holiday season. But when those temporary positions end, the unemployment rate will go right back to where it was before they were created.

8. The IT consolidation trend

The initials “IT” and “M&A” already go together like cereal and milk. And with spending on hardware, software and IT services expected to hit $3.5 trillion next year, the major players in the field have lots of incentives to keep adding to their range of offerings. One way they’re doing that is by snapping up smaller firms. Recent examples include HP’s acquisition of 3Par, Intel’s purchase of McAfee and IBM’s takeover of Netezza. But while the rapid pace of consolidation might be a good thing for consumers, waves of tech professionals will likely be squeezed out of Silicon Valley just as quickly.

9. The importance of internships

Because of the shortage of jobs, landing an internship is going to be more important than ever. Despite increased competition, if you’re a college student or looking to break into a new field, they’re an integral part of your next career move.

Starting in high school, students need to cultivate paid or unpaid work experiences that build skills, character, work ethic and resume. Employers use internships to prescreen and hire talent. Your career currency comes down to the following equation: internship experience + skills. Even if only on a volunteer basis for a few hours per week—this is how you get your foot in the door and demonstrate your passion for your field of interest.

10. Negotiate a package, not a salary

While the recession has affected the number of jobs and the kind of compensation on offer, it hasn’t changed how you should approach salary negotiations. However, what you negotiate for might change. While salary increases, stock options and signing bonuses might be in shorter supply, there might be opportunities to for other types of compensation such as at-risk pay based on milestones achieved, paid time-off and a flexible work schedule.

You should value the entire package and quantify everything. How you do that is up to you. Your compensation number should factor in what is essential to you and what is non-essential. You could even give weights to the essential and the non-essential in determining the value of your offer. As an example signing bonus, relocation, 401k match, day care and base salary could get an 80 percent weight while the other 20 percent would fall under extra vacation, nicer title etc. At the end of the day, each person will be different on what they value and what they consider essential.
— The Staff of Vault.com

The New Vault Accounting 50

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Vault Accounting 50 logoFor nearly the past decade, Vault has released rankings of the top accounting firms in North America, helping students and experienced professionals make more informed career decisions.

When Vault initially began ranking accounting firms, we only ranked firms in terms of prestige—that is, in terms of a firm’s reputation as perceived by professionals at other accounting firms. Later, Vault increased its rankings offerings to include “quality of life categories,” such as firm culture, compensation, hours, management treatment, diversity, training and business outlook, among others. In these categories, firms were rated by their own professionals, as opposed to those at other companies.

In the past, Vault’s main accounting ranking—the ranking featured most prominently on Vault.com and in our annual Guide to the Top 50 Accounting Firms—was our prestige ranking. This year, though, that has changed.

After asking accounting professionals what matters most to them when choosing an employer, they told us, overwhelmingly, that firm culture, as opposed to prestige, is the most important determining factor. In fact, 36 percent of all accounting professionals we surveyed told us that firm culture was most important, while only 11 percent cited prestige as most important. The other top factors cited by survey respondents were: lifestyle/work-balance (14 percent), location (13 percent), compensation (5 percent) and training opportunities (also 5 percent).

As a result, Vault has taken this feedback and created a new Vault Accounting 50, showcasing the firms that are the Best to Work For—a ranking compiled using the following weighted formula that reflects the issues job seekers care about most:

40 percent prestige
20 percent firm culture
10 overall satisfaction
10 compensation
10 hours
10 business outlook

This new Best to Work For ranking will replace the prestige ranking as the featured ranking on Vault.com and in the Vault Guide to the Top 50 Accounting Firms.

This doesn’t mean, however, that we are doing away with the prestige ranking. We still believe prestige to be a very important measure of a firm’s attractiveness to employees, thus the reason prestige makes up 40 percent of our new Best to Work For ranking. In addition, the prestige rankings will still appear prominently on our web site as well as in our annual accounting Guide (and stay tuned: next week, we will unveil our accounting prestige rankings).

And so, without further ado, below are the results of the new Vault Accounting 50:

Our inaugural No. 1 Best to Work For accounting firm is New York-headquartered Deloitte. With a score of 7.538, Deloitte edged out fellow Big Four accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, which placed No. 2 with a score of 7.410. Rounding out the top five were Rothstein Kass (6.469) at No. 3, Marcum (6.410) at No. 4 and Dixon Hughes (6.267) at No. 5.

Why Deloitte was No. 1

The battle between Deloitte and PwC was a fierce one: Deloitte handily beat PwC in the areas of overall satisfaction, hours and compensation, but PwC edged out Deloitte in prestige, culture and business outlook. What ultimately made the difference between No. 1 and No. 2 was the margin by which Deloitte topped PricewaterhouseCoopers in the categories in which it bested its rival. Deloitte scored more than one-half point higher than PwC in satisfaction, hours and compensation; meanwhile, PwC scored less than two-tenths of a point higher than Deloitte in prestige, firm culture and business outlook.

Almost unanimously, professionals outside Deloitte say it’s a “very prestigious,” “top of the line” accounting firm filled with “good people” who have a “strong reputation for excellence.” Insiders at the firm are equally as complimentary, and many point to Deloitte’s commitment to training as its best asset. “I believe this is one of the greatest perks about Deloitte,” says one firm insider. “We have amazing training opportunities. We’re even building Deloitte University, which will be the only facility of its type among the big firms.”

Deloitte staff also like that they’re “constantly exposed to different things and learn something new every day,” and believe that manager/staff relations are extremely cordial. “Most managers and senior professionals treat junior staff and consultants very well,” notes one Deloitte insider. “I’ve never felt like I couldn’t have candid conversations with the partners, and I feel that I have a very strong relationship with my staff.”

There is one thing, though, that outsiders and insiders alike don’t rave about when speaking of Deloitte: the hours. That is, the firm is said to “overwork its employees,” and working there is thought to be a “grind.”  Insiders aren’t all that surprised that hours are long. “I know that the long hours come with the job,” says one Deloitte staff member, but “working long hours all the time gets old. Sometimes it’s hard to take time off.”

Overall, Deloitte insiders are rather pleased with their jobs. Speaking about her satisfaction, one staff member says, “I’ve transferred positions within the firm, which was, essentially, taking on a new job. I’ve enjoyed the transfer, and I’m definitely satisfied with the firm’s ability to grow with my career.”

No. 2 PwC

Regarding PwC’s firm culture, one insider says, “The firm adheres to a work-hard, play-hard mentality. My office is a close-knit group and enjoys spending time together during non-work hours. On the job we have an open-door policy where ideas and thoughts are freely shared. Our partner has made it clear that anyone can reach out to him regarding anything.”

No. 3 Rothstein Kass

Here’s one RK insider on his overall job satisfaction: “The people within the firm make it an easy place to come to on a daily basis. For the most part, everyone gets along very well, and most people enjoy spending time with other employees outside of the work environment. Although public accounting can be stressful at times, the people here make all the difference.”

No. 4 Marcum

An insider on comp: “Marcum pays at the higher end of the pay scale. Compensation is extremely competitive.”

No. 5 Dixon Hughes

One of the firm’s accountants on Dixon Hughes’ business outlook: “We’re in a unique position as a regional firm. We’re big enough and talented enough to compete with Big Four firms for clients, but are also small enough to compete with some of the regional firms for clients. Our business outlook is good, and we’re looking forward to the things to come.”

Check out the rest of the firms ranked in the Vault Accounting 50.

–Posted by Derek Loosvelt, In the Black

Retail Jobs Surge, but Little Action Elsewhere: This Week in Employment

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Is there any point in even mentioning the biggest job/economy-related story of the week? We all know by now that the recession ended in 2009, right? Officially, at any rate, if not by Warren Buffett’s more common-sensical standards. And we’re all equally aware that, whether we’re technically in a recession or not, things are still pretty bleak and likely to remain so for some time? Good. So let’s move on to the good stuff.

Frankly, economic distractions aside, it hasn’t been the best week if you’re looking for positive employment news. Sure, we found out that retailers are anticipating a slightly better festive season than last year, prompting a prediction of up to 650,000 temporary jobs during the period this year. And, sure, Macy’s alone is creating as many as 65,000 temporary positions. All of that is decent news, but temporary hiring is, well, temporary—and the example of the Census earlier this year suggests that, in this economy, once temporary jobs have gone, the unemployment rate is likely to go straight back up to where it was prior to the positions.

There was some positive news for the tech sector, where it emerged that spending is estimated to top $3.5 trillion in 2011—and all of that spending does tend to suggest that hiring will follow. But that was tempered by news of cuts in other sectors, as noted on Vault’s Employment Tracker. While the news that Abbott Laboratories is laying off 3,000 workers was the worst cut of the week in terms of pure numbers, it wasn’t the worst signal out there. That honor went to the news that Bank of America is cutting 400 jobs in its global banking and markets division. The reason for that—a slowdown in revenue from trading and advising clients—may well have industry-wide reverberations. And as we’ve learned to our cost over the last couple of years, when the financial industry isn’t making money, the rest of us may well have good reason to be nervous.

Did Goldman Break Its Diversity Policy?

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For the 11th straight year, industry insiders named Goldman Sachs the most prestigious bank in North America in Vault’s latest ranking. In hindsight then, all the public mudslinging of recent years has done little to upset the bank whether it’s in attracting the biggest deals or the best talent. And according to our survey, bankers continue to want Goldman on their resume.

Ironically, a day after the rankings debuted, the bank’s prestige is under attack by three former female employees who charge, according to The Wall Street Journal, that “The investment bank practices a system in which women are paid less, promoted less and ‘systematically circumvented and excluded.'”

Jobs, Careers and Reviews at Goldman SachsWhat’s astounding about the allegation is the repeated emphasis on intent, i.e., that the bank has a system that almost formulaically excludes women from getting promoted and compensated on par with their male counterparts. While the bank has called the suit without merit, stating that, “People are critical to our business, and we make extraordinary efforts to recruit, develop and retain outstanding women professionals,” it seems it is yet again in the red with the public.

Comments from our Banking 50 survey—culled from responses submitted by over 1,300 banking professionals earlier this year—provide further perspective:

“Supportive and respectful management”

“They could do a better job of promotion as well as placement into areas that are a good fit and utilize skill sets…”

“Having come up through the ranks, from a junior trader to now an experienced one in fixed income products, I must say that I’ve been very pleased with the level of training, support and guidance that I’ve received over the years from the firm…”

“I’m a firm believer in the culture at Goldman Sachs. The firm is team-focused, emphasizing integrity and personal development within the industry.”

“I think we do a good job at getting women and diversity candidates in the door, but for real success we need to work on better retention.”

And, finally a snippet of their Diversity Mission Statement from Vault’s Annual Diversity Survey:

“The firm’s commitment to diversity is evident at the most senior levels and is driven down through the firm by way of our seventh business principle: “We offer our people the opportunity to move ahead more rapidly than is possible at most other places. Advancement depends on merit and we have yet to find the limits to the responsibility our best people are able to assume. For us to be successful, our men and women must reflect the diversity of the communities and cultures in which we operate. That means we must attract, retain and motivate people from many backgrounds and perspectives. Being diverse is not optional; it is what we must be.”

So where does this leave the banking king: A chauvinistic boys club, truly diverse with a few unintentional victims, or the victim of a ploy to take advantage of its current poor reputation? Weigh in by leaving a comment, emailing In Good Company or connecting on Twitter @VaultCSR.

More reading: The complete WSJ report.

What other banks made the Top 10 most prestigious banks in North America this year?

A Second Stimulus, and Bad News for the Finance Industry: This Week in Employment

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If one thing has become clear over the last week, it’s that the road to the midterm election is going to be a long, long, slog—especially for those of us who have set up alerts for the words “economy” and “jobs” in Google Reader and.

In case you somehow missed it, the biggest thing that happened to the world of jobs this week is that President Obama came out swinging as he attempts to save the Democratic majority in the House come November. Accordingly, almost everything he said throughout the week was tailored towards the issues that voters are most concerned about right now. Don’t know what that is? Here’s a clue: starts with “j”, ends in “obs.”

Mindful of the tarnished reputation of Stimulus I, the President was careful to avoid the term when rolling out his latest plan to, uh, stimulate the economy. His new plan has three main prongs, with each designed to spur hiring and investment in the economy: infrastructure spending, a 100 percent tax break for companies on new investments in plant and equipment, and increasing the budget for an R&D tax credit while also making it permanent. Oh, and there was also something about “holding the middle class hostage” that didn’t get any press attention at all.

Outside of Washington, one of the biggest hiring stories of the week turned out to not be much of a story at all. There we were all breathless with excitement over the news that Spanish bank Santander was hiring 6,000 in the UK. There was speculation on what it could possibly mean in terms of their plans for expansion (the company only has 22,000 employees in the UK).. And then there was another announcement: the company is hiring a mere 600 employees. Typos, eh?

Compounding the bad news for the finance industry was the prediction from Wall Street analyst Meredith Whitney that some 50,000 jobs related to the securities industry could be at risk. Her reasoning: that ” underwriting and advisory fees account for around 80 per cent of investment banks’ revenues and those areas have suffered badly.”

It was a bad week for those in aerospace and defense contracting as well: BAE Systems, Boeing and Lockheed Martin all announced layoffs, with tightened spending at the Pentagon prompting the firms to cut costs.

Elsewhere, it was another better-than-expected week for new jobless claims, with further “good” news to be found in the fact that there are now only five jobless workers for every open position. Woeful as that figure sounds, it’s a significant improvement from just a few months ago, when it was as high as six per opening.

There’s fresh hope on the horizon regarding that number as well: the birth rate appears to be among the many things negatively affected by the economy. All we need to do is hold on for a generation or so, and there will be more jobs than people. Right?