Bursting back into the market

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Osman Semerci's been out since October and looks set to be back in by April. Can fellow fixed income rejects achieve a six-month turnaround?

This, naturally, depends upon who you talk to. According to Michael Moran, chief exec of Fairplace, an organization whose raison d'ĂȘtre is helping disenfranchised bankers back into the business, Osman is by no means a hard act to follow.

Less than three months?

"It's taking people 12-13 weeks to get a comparable job back in the market," says Moran. "You have to work hard to find them, but there are jobs out there."

Moran says this cheering figure applies equally to ABS traders and leveraged financiers, who currently appear about as employable as operators of the spinning jenny. "A lot of people who came out of European banks around Christmas have found jobs very fast," he says.

More than three years?

Fixed income headhunters tell a slightly different tale, however. "If you're a VP or associate let go from securitization, structured credit or structured finance, you're going to find it hard," says Lee Thacker at Silvermine Partners.

"There's just not a lot of hiring in that space and the whole market is overstaffed," he adds.

Another fixed income consultant says it's just the same higher up the hierarchy. "There are a lot of senior people out of the market right now. Everyone's rationalising rather than beefing up," she sighs.

Semerci's special case

In this version of reality, Semerci's more exception than rule. "Osman's brand name is very big indeed," says Thacker. "He built the Merrill platform from the bottom up and I suspect most competitors will take the attitude that he was the fall guy for the losses."

If you've got a smaller brand name (or you're one of the generics of the banking job market), you shouldn't resign yourself to your fate, however. It may be hard to find a way back in, but that's no excuse for hanging out on a beach for a few months.

The window of opportunity...

"This is prime hiring season," says Thacker. "If you wait until May, you will have missed it, and we're expecting another round of fixed income redundancies in March and April, so you'll be competing against all those people too."

And the good news is that a few places are hiring - just as long as you're prepared to shift down a tier or three. The latest to throw its hat into the structured credit arena is Russian bank VTB - according to Financial News, VTB Bank Europe plans to hire 15 structured credit professionals in London this year. Experience of dealing with Russian clients will be a definite bonus.