Looking to Hire? Try Wall Street

Former Financial-Services Executives Test the Water in Ad-Agency Talent Pool

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The tumult on Wall Street could send résumés fluttering to an unexpected place: Madison Ave.

While it's unlikely that merger specialists from Bear Stearns might suddenly flood the creative floors at agencies, certain research, technology and finance-oriented roles at ad shops could easily be filled by executives displaced from fallen financial-services firms, according to recruiters. And at least one agency is seeing a growing number of applicants from the sector.

New York's unemployment rate climbed to its highest level in four years this past summer, according to the state Department of Labor Statistics. And the worsening financial crisis is expected to result in the Big Apple losing 165,000 private-sector jobs in the next two years, a report released last week by the city's chief economist and comptroller's office forecasts. Of those, more than 20% -- or some 35,000 -- will hail from the city's financial sector.

With New York so acutely hit by the downturn, many Wall Street types are scrambling to find positions. Interpublic Group of Cos.' R/GA said it has seen an increase in résumés from Wall Street, mainly for mid- to senior-level positions. The majority of these applicants are looking to transfer their skill set from Wall Street to advertising in departments such as finance, systems/IT, technology and production, the agency said.

"It's a pretty dramatic and radical move," said Pat Mastandrea, partner-CEO of Cheyenne Group, an executive-search firm based in New York. "While we're not going to see the stockbrokers and fund managers entering the agency world, at all those major financial-services companies there are key function areas that are very transferable to a lot of industries, including the advertising industry," she said.

Helpful skill sets
Marketing is the most obvious financial-services-firm department that may look to the agency world for positions, but other transferable jobs include human-resources positions, chief financial officer functions and other jobs that require technological know-how and data analysis. "As our business becomes more digital and interactive, the great thing about the financial-services industry is that they are much more advanced as a sector, and a much more global-thinking business area, so that would be a huge plus for interactive and digital agencies in particular," Ms. Mastandrea said.

"If you're coming from a completely different field on Wall Street, it's hard to imagine that you can jump right into advertising, but some [candidates] might have certain skill sets that might be helpful," said Sasha Martens, president of Sasha the Mensch, an independent recruiting firm focused on the ad industry. "Creatives not so much, but folks trying to make that change on the project-management side, I could see them having success." She added, "Folks who do research and analysts could be of use to agencies in their research and planning areas, and might be most likely to find a home" at ad agencies.

Where creative agencies could benefit, said Susan Friedman, who runs her own creative-focused recruitment firm in New York, is account management. "If they are young and particularly smart, the agencies should hire [financial-services veterans] as account people," she said. The sector is "a wonderful source for some of the brightest account people because they know how to sell."

The positions that Wall Street's finest would have the toughest time snagging in the agency business are the topmost ones. "From R/GA's perspective, it's difficult to hire executive-level talent coming from Wall Street to Madison Avenue, because oftentimes they are behind the curve in terms of knowledge of the ad industry, technology and the sophistication around digital marketing," a spokesman said.

Further, recruiters point out, the most senior among them are more likely to look elsewhere, thanks to the fact that ad-industry compensation is less attractive than in some other fields. "My suspicion is that the salaries in advertising have not increased much in the last 10 to 15 years," Mr. Martens said. "My sense is that what a group creative director makes today is probably the same as it was 10 years ago."
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