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The fallout from the financial crisis plaguing Wall Street has become as nail-biting as a "Survivor" tribal council, and no one has experienced more drama than the staff of Lehman Brothers.
On Monday, Lehman’sU.S. employees thought they’d been voted off Manhattan Island when their employer filed Chapter 11, preparing to liquidate and call it day. Tuesday, British bank Barclays swooped in and offered to buy parts of Lehman’s U.S. investment banking operations, temporarily reversing the fortune of Lehman 10,000 employees.
And yesterday, Barclays publicly released the terms of the deal, which called for these Lehman employees to be either kept on (and paid) for 90 days or given severance equal to 20 percent of their previous-year salaries. Those who stay will also receive bonuses from the pool Lehman set aside for end-of-the-year payouts before it filed bankruptcy (though, this pool is expected to be just 60 percent of the on a year earlier).
Indeed, it’s been a tough week to be a Lehman employee (made somewhat more comfortable, perhaps, by the relaxing of its infamous formal dress code; this week, employees have been allowed to come to “work” in business casual attire), and today, although 10,000 of them have a little more security than they did on Monday, their jobs are still in jeopardy.
Support staff and back office groups will almost certainly be cut due to overlap with Barclays, as will other units, though it’s still not clear which will be shown the door (both Barclays and Lehman are well known for their fixed-income prowess, so it will be interesting to see whose names are on the pink slips and which firms, subsequently, will pick up the fallen bankers).
For the time being, the best option for employees whose groups aren’t certain feel the brunt of the British axe is to stick it out and hope for the best. The worst case scenario is they’ll receive a small severance package if let go; at best they’ll survive, pick up a bonus at year-end and change the name on their business cards to “Barclays” come 2009.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Lehman tribe continues to chew its fingers, as the firm’s European and Asian investment banking employees as well as its asset management staff have yet to find saviors.
Derek Loosvelt is Vault.com’s global finance editor. He has a BS in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA in creative writing from The New School. He is a writer and editor and has worked for Brill’s Content and Inside.com. Previously, he worked in investment banking at CIBC and Duff & Phelps.
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Earlier this week, in a CNBC exclusive interview, Wilbur Ross, CEO of WL Ross & Co. noted that in the current tumultuous financial environment, private equity firms and buyout specialists may reap a rather depressing benefit--the ability to scoop up distressed banks at rock-bottom prices.
Will this sector of the financial services industry be a safe haven for those left holding pink slips? Unfortunately, the answer is probably not.
This week, as Wall Street was in tumult, the annual Dow Jones Private Equity Analyst Conference went on at the tony Waldorf Astoria Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Seeking Alpha called the scene at the conference positively “calm” despite the storms brewing downtown, though a survey of attendees did point to some pessimistic thinking: 64 percent of attendees agreed that the deal flow for the rest of 2008 will be patchy as the financial markets recover from recent events. How observant of them!
Overshadowed by the 25,000 Lehman Brothers employees who woke up Monday morning to discover that their employer had gone bankrupt, tens of thousands of Merrill Lynch and Bank of America insiders are also left wondering what will happen to their jobs now that their companies have agreed to combine in a $44 billion deal.
Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy means most of its 25,000 remaining employees will soon be out of job without a substantial severance package, leaving them with little breathing room with which to search for a new job. Understandably, Lehman employees are dismayed, angry and anxious, asking themselves, What do I do now?
The answer is: several things.
Hitting up financial recruiters is an essential first step, and many insiders are well aware of this—reports this morning say headhunters’ phones are ringing off the hook. Indeed, recruiters know who’s looking for talent, and today, there are many financial firms hungry for the high-class talent coming out of Lehman . (They’re likely also hungry for Merrill Lynchtalent, given the firm’s agreement to be acquired by Bank of America for $44 billion).
Aside from headhunters, insiders should be contacting clients as well as colleagues at other big banks. Lehman’s name is one of the most prestigious on Wall Street, and several Lehman groups could be assets to other clients or competitors. It’s not unlikely that an entire group could be swallowed by a (former) competitor, or that a few of Lehman’s corporate clients will want some the bank’s insiders to perform related financial functions for them.
Employees might also consider becoming a big fish in a smaller pond, aiming their searches at some of the smaller investment banks on Wall Street, commonly called the middle market. These firms—such as Evercore Partners, Houlihan Lokey and Jefferies & Company—will likely win big with Lehman folding, gaining top bankers with top clients. Already, these smaller firms have done well in the midst of the credit crisis, picking up former Bear Stearns bankers as well as bankers at other firms who’ve been laid off since the crisis began.
You’ve been making boatloads of money trading derivatives for a bulge bracket investment bank in New York. You’re happy with your job, and your employer is happy with you (because you’ve making them boatloads of money).
One day, you reach for the phone on your desk, expecting it to be the bond analyst you called 20 minutes earlier, but instead it’s Ms. So and So from X, Y, Z & Co., a firm you’ve never heard of because, you soon learn, it’s a executive recruiting firm. In the next 45 seconds you also learn that X, Y, Z has been enlisted by another bulge bracket investment bank (which happens to be one of your firm’s major competitors) to hire someone that does exactly what you do.
This recently happened to a VP of sales and trading, who had to make a quick decision: Do I take the call or not?
Some execs are naturally leery of taking calls from recruiters. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll be overheard. Maybe you’re happy as a clam in your current gig. Or maybe you’re just too brutally busy to bother.
But keep a few things in mind. One, headhunters are paid by the firm looking to hire you, so nothing comes out of your pocket if you end up taking the position. Two, headhunters aren’t cold callers; they’ve received your name after a detailed search for qualified candidates, likely asking other firms in the industry that work with yours, and perhaps even speaking to some of your clients. Three, even though you might know right away the job’s not a good fit for you and you might lose several minutes of valuable work time by speaking to the headhunter about the opportunity, in taking the call and being respectful, you’ll have developed a relationship with the headhunter who might call you again with another opportunity, which just might be that perfect fit.
Overall, you have little to lose by listening to the headhunter’s offer. When taking the call, be respectful, listen carefully, ask questions and seriously consider the offer. You never know, it could just be the job you’ve been looking for (without having to look for it). And if not, you just might hear back in the near future with an offer you can’t refuse.
As for the VP, she listened to the headhunter, decided to interview for the job and, after several rounds of interviews, was offered the position— which promised more compensation and, more important, a new working environment, new coworkers, a new trading floor and new management. “I’d been working for the same firm for seven years,” she says, “and even though I was happy where I was, I figured a change would be good.”
Two months into her new job, her hunch has been right on. Working with different people in a different office for a different firm has indeed reenergized her and put her on an even faster career track – and as a bonus, she enjoyed her first month-long vacation in a long time.
Marcy Lerner is the VP of Content and Editorial Research at Vault.com. She graduated from the University of Virginia and has a MA in history from Yale University.
The blogging CEO is not a new creature in the internet landscape – some members of the blogging CEO club have diligently posted since the days of the dot-com bust.
But as more and more companies embrace the web as a key marketing tool, an expanding number of top execs stepping up to vent their spleens on everything from the challenges of leading a large corporation to musings on the mundane.
Here’s a rundown of some of the best CEO blogs; take some inspiration from these visionary leaders if you’re thinking of starting your own executive-level blog.
Jonathan Schwartz, Sun Microsystems
One of the oldest and most comprehensive CEO blogs, Schwartz posts insightful, well-written and even, dare we say it, entertaining entries. His focus on developing great products for Sun’s customers shines through in every post.
Posting frequency: Once or twice a month
Bonus: Easily visible and comprehensive list of links to downloadable Sun products and other promotions.
Mark Cuban, Owner, Dallas Mavericks Cuban isn’t technically a CEO, but he’s large and in charge – and full of opinions on everything from the business of sports to HDTV adoption.
Posting frequency: A few times a week
Bonus: In a recent entry, Cuban reminded readers that the average lifespan of an unflattering news story is three weeks, while the average lifespan of a piece of good press is three days. Good advice if you’re thinking of entering the internet fray as a blogger to combat bad press – as Cuban himself did.
Dave Kellogg, Mark Logic
Kellogg, CEO of startup Mark Logic (which is developing XML server) has been blogging since 2005 on everything from business plans to XML database development.
Posting frequency: At least once every business day, usually by 8:30 am Pacific time; sometimes Kellogg posts two or three posts over the course of the day.
Bonus: If you’re a tech exec interested in database development, this blog is chock-a-block with info on the latest developments search paradigms.
Bill Marriott, Marriott International
Marriott discusses business developments (including the recent renovations of this hotel chain’s major properties) and his pet interests (education, health care and the environment). A great example of how to achieve a blog with the perfect mix of content that touches on both the personal and the professional .
Posting frequency: Weekly
Bonus: Marriott International recently revealed that reservations booked through links from Marriott’s blog accounts for almost $1 million in room revenue. So yes -- CEO blogs can provide a quantifiable ROI.
Mike Critelli, Pitney Bowes
Critelli, the executive chairman of Pitney Bowes, is a very prolific and outspoken blogger; like Marriott, his well-written posts also illustrate a great blend of the personal the professional. In recent weeks, he’s hit on topics ranging from governmental issues to the environmental impact of direct mail.
Posting frequency: A few times a week
Bonus: In a recent post, Critelli illustrated his life-long interest in the promotion of financial literacy through a string of anecdotes concerning his long history of thriftiness, reaching back to a set of second-hand golf clubs purchased at a Salvation Army outlet.
Now that you’re full of inspiration – need a few more pointers on getting your own blog off the ground? Check out a podcast of a panel from the 2008 Milken Institute Global Conference on the pros and cons of CEO blogging. Or, take pointers from productivity guru Merlin Mann (43 Folders) on how to generate compelling content for your new communications mouthpiece.
Michaela R. Drapes is an editor at Vault.com. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and has degrees in radio/TV/film and English. Before joining Vault, she was an editor at award-winning business publisher Hoover’s Inc. and covered an array of industry sectors, including pharmaceuticals, amusement parks, real estate, and international banking and finance.