November 3, 2008 / 2:03 PM / 10 years ago

Finance students eye future with uncertainty

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - These may be uncertain times for banking and finance workers, but spare a thought for thousands of wannabe whiz kids still looking for a start in industry.

Andrea Ross, director of recruitment firm Robert Walters, Singapore, said she expects to see far fewer jobs for fresh graduates as banks and investment houses cut back on recruiting and training in the wake of the global financial crisis.

She said prospective employees would have to scale back their expectations and perhaps seek less glamorous openings with less prestigious firms.

“They shouldn’t be so brand conscious,” Ross told Reuters, but said the prognosis wasn’t all bad.

“Fresh graduates shouldn’t feel all doom and gloom, they should keep an open mind and feel positive.

University students studying finance in Singapore, a regional financial center, were not upbeat.

“It’s a bottomless pit,” said P. Ong, a third-year finance student at Singapore Management University, on the current global financial crisis.

“They don’t teach this in the textbooks. I think anyone who hasn’t graduated is very, very jittery.”

Jing Rong, 24, a finance major graduating next May, said it was good the financial crisis was cutting the wheat from the chaff.

“It’s definitely a lot tougher to find a job but one thing good is that we know which banks to apply for since some have gone under already,” he said.

He said applied a few days ago to join a bank as a junior private banker, only to find out later that it was going to be nationalized.

“It’s not within my control. I just apply and wait for a response,” he said.


Many banks and finance institutions around the world have already announced sweeping cuts in the wake of the crisis, meaning graduates will be not only be competing with each other for jobs, but also with the newly unemployed.

Goldman Sachs Group said last week it plans to cut 10 percent of its workforce joining Barclays Plc, which is looking to cut at least 3,000 jobs in the United States and Merrill Lynch, which warned recently that “thousands” would be laid off as it is absorbed into Bank of America Corp.

And first to go will be junior and mid-career bankers who joined the industry on the back of the bull market of the past few years, because they do not have the experience to handle this current crisis, wealth managers said.

“A situation like this always throws up the shortcomings,” said Marcel Kreis head of private banking Asia Pacific for Credit Suisse. “A lot of people confuse luck or good markets with skill.”

Unlike their more experienced counterparts, who have seen previous downturns and handled this crisis by acting as therapists to their clients, junior bankers have less assets and fewer options when it comes to dishing out advice.

A junior private banker at a Swiss bank, who declined to be named as she is not authorized by the bank to speak to the press, is already bracing for the worst.

“You never know what other news the bank will spring on us and how the market can turn. You can tell they are cutting back on costs. Everyone is flying economy — even the CEOs and senior executives,” she said.

Roman Scott, managing director of Calamander Group in Singapore and a consultant to the private banking industry in Asia for the past decade, said less experienced relationship managers and those selling structured products will be the first to go.

“Everyone is always looking for good people, but what they won’t say is that anyone who’s not making the grade, now is the time they’re going to be shot,” Scott said.

Additional reporting by Jeffrey Hodgson; Editing by David Fox

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