Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Adventures in Unemployment: Cookie-Cutter Recruiter

My recent experience with recruiters or "head-hunters" has been disappointing. I have a 25-year career on Wall St, with not a scratch on my U4 and 6 Certificates (2 Principal).
It is a sign of the times as recruiters are losing ground to the Internet.  Having a large, active network via LinkedIn turned out to be quite valuable, but still there is something missing.
Back in the 80's and 90's, if you wanted a Wall St job, you went to a headhunter. If you had experience, you called other people in the business and networked your way to a new job.
Following the old model. I reached out to recruiters. I even met with a few. The first question is "do you have clients?" if Yes, then next question is "can they travel with you?".
If you have large institutional clients, it doesn't matter how well you know them, if the company recruiting you doesn't meet their "preferred broker" standard, you aren't getting paid.
This is the dawn of the middle-management auditor. This goes back to the late 1990's and the DOJ monitoring broker-dealers. Both buy-side and sell-side firms began to promote people from risk and auditing departments. These guys (not having any trading or customer service experience whatsoever) decided that a system of broker selection would be necessary to prove to regulators, shareholders and auditors that they were using the utmost care in selecting a broker that would achieve the nirvana of "best execution".
It has also lead to the rapid erosion of profit margins on the institutional brokerage side of the business.
When commissions were 1/16, there was enough to go around. Commissions now are reduced to as low as $0.002 per-share and most of that is subject to soft dollars.
So - recruiters and heads of sales continue the charade that Institutional Business will travel regardless of RFI and margin. That's the sell-side.
The buy-side trader has more cards stacked against them as many buy-side firms are turning towards self-execution. Man being replaced by machine in many aspects. Even the execution process is almost 100% algorithm and automated. 
Fixed-Income - Emerging Market  and Frontier Markets require a middle-man to an extent. Eventually that market will go full-automated too. There are still "broker's brokers" in the fixed income market (these are broker-dealers that make a gross-credit between dealers and or clients). If the Manning Rule was applied to all markets, there would  be a lot of unemployed bond-traders out there.
The one aspect of the Wall Street that is rapidly expanding is Compliance and Control. There aren't enough qualified people to meet the current demand. I threw my hat in the ring since I have the licenses, and more than 5-years experience with supervisory / regulatory review.
I went into recruiting offices with this knowledge in mind. I was told by more than one recruiter that I didn't meet their minimum requirement. I actually asked a recruiter if she read my resume. She got insulted, but I went over my resume with her line-by-line and explained to her why I had more than the requisite experience. She insisted that I required another (lesser) license and that would satisfy the client. I explained to her that I was over-qualified based on my CV, and she was essentially mis-representing the client. Needless to say, I have yet to get a lead from any of the 6 recruiters I spoke with... 
One recruiter was honest: Sh explained that the client wants to see a "magic number" of applicants (lets say 25) before they pull the ad or start the interviews. Thats why you see ads on LinkedIn or other sites where the posting remains, over 50 people applied, but the job does not exist. It was either filled or it is a method of sampling the talent pool in a given metro-area.

Do it yourself recruiting:
I answered a few internet adverts for Principal positions and had some good luck - If you told me 15 years ago to swap trading for compliance I would have balked. 
My resume shows a solid career as a sell-side trader. I was called into a few interviews and the first question was usually about why I wasn't seeking a trading position.
Getting the interview was not as difficult as I expected (having licenses and a clean U4 helps!). I had an interviewer tell me "I will be your supervisor, but my career doesn't hold a candle to yours."... I was flattered.  In other words: the interviewers all agreed that I was over-qualified!
I told them about the outside recruiters and they got a good laugh.
Internal Recruiters are hit or miss:
In an effort to validate Human Resources, many companies have expanded their in-house recruiting.
HR is almost as big as Compliance on Wall Street. 
I applied directly to a few corporate websites: again, better than using third-party recruiters.
Most Wall Street Internal-Recruitment is reduced to a cookie-cutter process. Very few resumes make it past the process to the desired eyes. Go to any career page for a large bank an commence the process. It doesn't matter who you know at this point, but you must hit the right buttons on the recruitment algorithm. Most internal  recruiters began their career as external recruiters (third-party). They are all fairly young and approach the internal job the same way they did on the outside: "let the algorithm do the work!"
Following up on an application, I decided to contact HR at a big bank. I was given to a 26-year-old girl for support. She claimed to have reviewed my CV and told me I was under-qualified.
I was floored. Undaunted, I re-drafted my resume to hit the "buttons" and re-submitted by creating a new profile with new email address.
Almost immediately I get a phone-call from an internal recruiter saying I am the guy they are looking for! Needless to say, I think I have this system licked.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

-Adventures in Unemployment: Finding Healthcare

Back in November I was laid off from work.
Budget cuts and overexposure to the energy markets has severely impacted a lot of small financial shops.
I had healthcare coverage extended until the end of December. The last time I was in this position, the ACA was on the horizon but not fully implemented. In other words, I wasn't forced into a health exchange. At that time the solution was to locate temporary health insurance which was a fairly simple and competitive process. I recall I shopped for a plan over a three day period and found a solution that covered my household for approximately $380 per month. Topped off with the fact that this was a reputable insurance company offering temporary insurance. I was able to keep my doctor and actually it was an improvement to my previous coverage.
The alternative would have been to apply for COBRA, which is a pricey extension of benefits.
I have a few irons in the fire at present, and I presume to be fully employed within the next month or two with a more reputable outfit. Timing is the worst part of the equation since nothing gets finalized during the Holidays. As a safeguard against unforeseen events, I need to locate temporary health insurance but with a span of approximately three months. Why three months? If I am employed by mid January, my benefits probably won't kick-in until  February or March the latest. With a few options in front of me, the ability to negotiate should not be compromised for having a lack of insurance coverage. Negotiations could extend I towards February employment, thereby requiring coverage over March.
I approached the problem based on my last experience. I liked the coverage I had with United. Healthcare but I didn't want to pay outlandish COBRA premiums. UNH, at the time, sold temporary insurance - as previously stated, it was an easy process. Not this time however. Florida participates in health exchanges therefore UNH will not sell me temporary insurance.
I am automatically directed to healthcare.gov.
To prevent from getting scammed as a result of a porous government firewall, I approached the site with a pseudonym and a specially created gmail address to ingest whatever spam would come my way.
Immediately, I was receiving spam from "Obamacare" providers.
I proceeded to navigate healthcare.gov and found the choices discouraging. I contacted my physicians with the plan options that were offered; not one would accept the coverage. My wife did the same on her end. You can't keep your plan or your doctor. Period.
The site does not offer temporary insurance. All insurance plans are annual and final. The minimum plan for a non-smoker and spouse with a 60/40 pay (a bronze plan) I was quoted $690 per month, with a $12000 deductible.
The bronze plans do not cover our household needs and actually made my COBRA option economically feasible by comparison!
I dug deeper and found the Medicare options. I can get a zero premium with a $10000 deductible, but I need to meet certain conditions:
I projected zero income for FY 2015, but was negated by the salary disclosure of 2014.
But if I said I had a hardship (which is anything including being laid-off) I could possibly get the free coverage.
If I were a hedge fund manager, and I paid myself via capital gains, technically I could claim zero income and have he rest of the working stiffs cover my Cadillac  obamacare platinum plan.
Not wanting to trigger an IRS audit, I decided to walk away from healthcare.gov.
I found the temporary insurance I needed. Slightly more expensive than last time, but compared to the ACA's Silver 80/20 plans, it was about half the price with a lower deductible and more comprehensive coverage.
The ACA will probably never get repealed, but I do believe the obstruction to commerce needs to be addressed. I found cheaper, better yet temporary healthcare away from the ACA but I was still prevented from going with an insurance company of my choosing.
It's clearly an interstate commerce issue, but I doubt it will be addressed.
Next time I'll discuss the depressing state of employment recruiters.