Despite recent reports of people changes at some of Wall Street's biggest players in the securitization market, finding work, even for experienced hands, is still no easy task.
Noted one former ABS executive with more than 25 years' experience who has been looking for work, "Issuance is 15% to 20% off its peak; is employment off by a similar amount? No, so there are probably more cuts to come."
Indeed, most of the changes at the big Wall Street banks represent more of a re-jiggering of existing staff rather than efforts to bring on more.
By far the biggest hiring news was Credit Suisse's raid of Barclays Capital, pulling over the U.K. bank's co-head of U.S. asset securitization, Jay Kim, who will head up the asset finance team and bring at least 10 or so bankers with him in May.
That leaves Cory Wishengrad heading the remaining group, which includes the team specializing in esoteric transactions that has worked on recent deals such as Cajun Global and Adams Outdoor Advertising.
Kim's move may reflect less the state of the market than an opportunistic move by Credit Suisse. Michael Wade, who played a major role in building Barclays' ABS business, moved over to Credit Suisse about a year ago along with Tricia Hazelwood. They were named co-heads of the finance team, and a recruiter familiar with the move said they will report to Kim, also a long-time Barclays executive.
A Credit Suisse spokesman declined to comment on the new hires, noting that there will be leadership changes in the asset finance division, which is headed up by Albert Sohn.
The recruiter noted that there's been significant friction between legacy executives from Barclays and those from Lehman Brothers, which was acquired by Barclays in a fire sale during the throes of the financial crisis in fall 2008.
Deusche Bank, meanwhile, is unifying all the pieces of its securitization trading under one umbrella, following a much larger integration last summer of its global bank and trading divisions. Additional businesses will be placed under managing directors Pius Sprenger and Troy Dixon.
Credit Suisse is reportedly re-launching its CMBS business, as is Nomura Securities.
Neither firm confirmed those initiatives, but the CMBS market has rebounded over the last year, and that may increase opportunities for executives with experience in that market.
Credit Suisse, for example, has re-hired Faisal Ashraf to join its CMBS desk, where he will head the firm's large-loan structuring, pricing and execution strategy. Ashraf worked at the bank until 2008, when he left to start up Lotus Real Estate Capital, which he shut down. He reports to Ben Aitkenhead, who is in charge of CMBS at the bank.
Deutsche Bank, meanwhile, recently hired Ben Solomon away from Goldman Sachs to run secondary CMBS bond trading.
"I'd be surprised if people were hiring much now, because there's so much regulatory uncertainty," said an ABS analyst at a major buyside firm. "I think that's going to take a couple of years to resolve."
She noted that the current market is facing "negative net issuance," meaning there's insufficient issuance to replace what's maturing.
The recruiter said all financial services firms are seeking to do more with less and are still hesitant to make new hires.
"Firms are conscious about being top heavy," he said. "It's tough to get people hired because of what we've been through. Firms are really trying to get the most for the buck."