Tuesday, December 09, 2008

On the Street, Disbelief and Resignation - WSJ.com

WSJ.com: Inside what's left of Wall Street, investment bankers are doing all they can to cope with a business that is disappearing before their eyes. Yes, there are tens of thousands of people still with jobs. They just don't have much work. Debt and stock markets are virtually shut, merger volume is down by 28%, and whole lines of structured finance are closed for good. Investment banking has since become a phantom realm, where everyone is busy but no one is doing anything. In this world, status is conferred by a quality meeting, not a completed transaction; a $700,000 salary is deemed generous; and an apocryphal story keeps circulating of a former J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. mortgage-securities banker now driving a forklift. "An entire generation has worked for 20 years, lifted up their heads, and it's all gone 'poof,' " says one Goldman Sachs banker. Indeed, last Friday J.P. Morgan quietly laid off a passel of Bear Stearns bankers. They thought they had found a safe harbor after Bear imploded early this year. For now, the coping is taking the form of prolific meeting-taking. Ten of 11 people interviewed described, with unexpected eagerness, how now is a good time to "connect with clients" or "build relationships." One boasted of spending just two days a month in the office, while another ex-J.P. Morgan employee boasted of two breakthrough meetings -- just hours before he was fired.

No comments: