Recruiting Reflects Stock Market Crash

When James J. Pak '88 thought about his plans after graduation, he considered applying for a job in investment banking. But because of the recent stock market crash, Pak says he will definitely not go into investment banking.

With Black Monday nearly two months in the past, the crash is now causing many graduating seniors to steer away from investment banking. Students who graduated last year and took investment banking jobs are also beginning to rethink their career choice.

Students have been scared off by the shattered image of investment banking, recent layoffs on Wall Street and tales of negative experiences from many Harvard graduates who are currently in the field. Now many business-oriented students are migrating to fields of consulting and commercial banking.

Although it will be unclear exactly how many students are interested in investment banking until this month's recruiting deadlines, the field's information sessions are emptying out and more students are flocking to the consulting and commercial banking information sessions than ever before.

"Harvard students are sophisticated and they read," says Linda Chernick, associate director of the Harvard Office of Career Services. "It's clear that the crash will have a definite impact on the numbers [of students who will choose to be recruited for investment banking], but no one knows what that will be this year as of yet because the deadline for February recruiting is not until December 18."

Recent layoffs at large firms have also shaken student confidence in the banking field. Shearson Lehman Brothers bought E.F. Hutton this week and Business Week reported that many of E.F. Hutton's 18,000 employees will be "redundant" when the two corporations merge. Salomon Brothers lad off 800 workers this fall, Citicorp eliminated 1000 positions or one-tenth of their total employment, and Kidder Peabody also laid off 1000 workers.

While investment banking firms insist that neither their financial analyst nor recruiting programs have changed as a result of the crash, the career no longer looks as appealing as it once did. Chernick says that she has suggested to students "because of the unusual situation this year and the obvious economic uncertainty, that it is a very good idea to have back-up plans and other options as alternatives to investment banking."

"The students who are affected most by this [the economic uncertainty] are the ones whose interest is only lukewarm," she adds. "People who are Wall Street-bound are determined to go after investment banking regardless."

Career counselors at other schools agree that while investment banks have not changed their recruiting tactics, the students have shifted their career interests. Anne Long, director of recruiting at Princeton College, reports that investment banks are making the "same recruiting efforts as in past years." However, she notes that out of six information sessions held at Princeton one night, the four consulting sessions were "overly crowded" and, "embarrassingly" the two investment banking rooms were "nearly empty."

"The interest in consulting is very high this year," says Chernick. "Students are hedging their bets and giving themselves more options, but it is also true that there are many more opportunities in consulting now than ever before."

"In choosing investment banking," the students basically "have to go to New York City," says Chernick. "Consulting offers the locale that a lot of students are looking for," she says, adding that many top consulting firms are based in Boston.

Traditionally, investment banking, with its glorified salaries and 100-hour work weeks, has attracted Harvard seniors who dream of business school and of getting rich. However, first-and second-year financial analysts who graduated from Harvard are warning prospective recruits that the field has lost a lot of its prestige because of the crash.

"Before I started, I thought that investment banking was God's all--that this was it," says one disillusioned first-year analyst who asked not be identified. "But the hours are just not sane, my social life is totally shot and I don't even have the consolation of enjoying my job because now [following the crash] I'm just doing busy work."

Another analyst, who asked not to be named, says, "I now feel like a source of cheap labor. I cannot stand it [this job]. It's like getting beaten up every day."

Before the crash, working 100 hours a week was a fair trade-off for gaining invaluable education in the investment banking field. But opinions have changed now, as analyst programs have lost educational value and left more drudge work to trainees.