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I’ve just quit my senior trading job to become a Wall Street headhunter. Here’s why

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PJ D’Amelio had wanted to quit the trading floor for a while, but it took being laid off from his job as head of European equities at Canacord Genuity for him to make the leap – into recruitment.

“It was actually a bit of a relief,” said D’Amelio, who started his own headhunting business,  Peter Justin Executive Search LLC, in New York late last year. “I hit 40 last year, and realised that I needed to move away from the trading floor. It seemed like the right time.”

With juniorization taking hold of the trading floor, hitting 40 is a much bigger milestone than it would be for most jobs. The majority of traders are under 30, and burnout is a big problem the longer you stick around. What’s more, sales and trading professionals are increasingly seeking alternative career paths as banks cut back their markets businesses.

But, why headhunting? Moving into recruitment was the thing to do for senior bankers post-2008, but a subdued hiring market combined with financial services organisations moving more recruitment in-house makes it a riskier move now.

“There are a lot of good recruiters, but I also found myself frustrated with a lot of spray and play recruiters who didn’t understand the business,” he says. “I had a lot of people asking me whether I knew any good research analysts, or fund managers looking for PMs. There seemed to be an opportunity.”

The theory is that ex-bankers make better headhunters. They understand the minutiae of complex business areas in financial services, they speak the lingo, they have the network.

There’s certainly no shortage of former bankers among the larger search firms. William De Quetteville, a former UBS banker, runs the IBD practice at Armstrong International, Stephane Rombosson, the former head of French ECM at Citi, is managing partner at DHR International and Christian Beatson-Hird, one of the founders of headhunters Sainty Hird, is a former J.P. Morgan banker. In Asia, it’s an increasingly common career path.

D’Amelio says that he joined Deutsche Bank in 1999 when they were “giving jobs away” and spent 17 years in various senior sales and trading roles at KBC Financial Products and Investec Securities. Right now he’s focused on equities, both on the buy-side and sell-side.

“I’m done harassing fund managers trying to convince them to pick my pitches,” he says. “I’m happy harassing candidates instead.”

Contact: pclarke@efinancialcareers.com

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