What a year for Wall Street. With the exception of a few firms, most of the Street announced plans to lay off thousands of employees. The year-end total came to more than 200,000, up from the 174,000 who were axed in 2009, when the world was still struggling in the aftermath of the financial crisis.
Firms like Bank of America and HSBC jostled to cut 30,000 jobs each, while stalwarts like JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs also had to part with 1,000 employees each. Analysts wrote scary notes suggesting that the Wall Street landscape may never be like it was. The cuts foretold a bleaker vision with firms exiting certain businesses (asset management for some, retail for others, proprietary trading for all), shedding the attendant employees and gradually shrinking to foster more profitable business lines.
It's not all gloom-and-doom. The year saw the continued rise of emerging markets like Asia, Latin America and the Middle East as destinations for banks. Wealth management engaged in a talent war that's expected to continue as banks mine the world for top talent with local business knowledge, whether in Boston or Beijing. The accounting profession also showed its resilience, with Big Four firms attempting to top each other with plans to hire hundreds of thousands over the next five years.
You're hopefully reading this from your iPad en route to a fabulous destination. Or maybe you're home crafting your perfect resume, gearing up for a busy recruiting season come January. Either way, I wish you the happiest of holiday seasons. Keep the e-mails coming and keep sending me your stories. I want to read them all.
See you in 2012,
The Year's Most Important Job Stories
MF Global Falls (FINS)
Due to a few risky bets from Chief Executive Jon Corzine, MF Global spooked investors and was forced to declare bankruptcy. Nearly 3,000 employees were affected globally.
UBS Revamps (WSJ)
A rogue trading incident led to the resignation of CEO Oswald Gruebel and a more speedy revelation of the bank's overhaul plans. Focusing on wealth management, the firm is cutting back in areas within the investment bank.
Partner Exodus (Bloomberg)
Nearly 40 partners left the pearly gates of Goldman this year. Some were asked to leave, others left of their own accord. It was the largest number of partner departures since 2008, prompting some to ask whether the exalted firm had lost a bit of luster.
HSBC Retools (FINS)
HSBC made concerted efforts this year to turn things around, selling retail franchises, withdrawing from certain countries and abandoning its wealth management unit in Japan. It will have to cut 30,000 jobs to reduce costs.
BofA's Turnaround (FINS)
BofA confirmed rumors that it would lay off 30,000 people as part of a cost-saving initiative. Some areas of the bank were hit harder than others. Small business banking actually hired.
Canadian Bankin' (FINS)
Canadian banks are eager to add Americans to their rank. You don't even have to like maple syrup. Or hockey (though you should probably learn to like that one).
Asian Resurgence (FINS)
Can't find a job in the U.S.? Try Asia. Unemployment rates are low, climates can be tropical and most importantly, talent is wanted.
Bank of the Year (FINS)
There's one big bank that's expanding while everyone else contracts. Step right up, Standard Chartered, you are the FINS Bank of the Year.
New Opportunities (FINS)
Not all jobs disappeared in 2011. Some sectors, like private equity, accounting and wealth management, are seeing massive growth.