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Financial Giants Are Moving Jobs Off Wall Street

New York’s biggest investment houses are shifting jobs out of the area and expanding in cheaper locales in the United States, threatening the vast middle tier of positions that form the backbone of employment on Wall Street.

Bryce Duffy | Stone | Getty Images

The shift comes even as banks consider deeper staff cuts here, which could undermine the state and city tax base long term.

“Places like New York or London will remain financial centers, but most of the players are taking a much harder look and asking whether they can move large numbers of jobs,” said James Malick, a partner at the Boston Consulting Group who advises banks on relocation. In addition to higher taxes in the New York region, employers face real estate and labor costs significantly above the national average.

Consultants say they have seen a sharp pickup in this trend, known as near-shoring, as opposed to offshoring overseas. Goldman Sachs, during a presentation to investors in late May, even boasted of the cost savings that relocating jobs can bring.

“Some functions need to stay in the United States, but they don’t need to be in New York City or near the client,” Mr. Malick said. And with most investment giants facing anemic revenue and more stringent regulation that cuts into trading revenues, relocation is more tempting than it was before the financial crisis.

Low-level jobs have already migrated to call centers and back offices overseas, while top-end traders and bankers are secure in the New York area, experts say. Instead, services like accounting, trading and legal support, and human resources and compliance are being shifted to places like Salt Lake City, North Carolina and Jacksonville, Fla.

Garry Douyon enjoyed his job helping process trades and working with clients and traders at RBS in Stamford, Conn., earning nearly $100,000 a year, but when the firm decided last fall to move his team to Salt Lake City with a salary of $60,000, he said he really didn’t have much of a choice.

“I didn’t even consider moving,” said Mr. Douyon, who founded a biofuels company, All-City Clean Energy, in Brooklyn with four partners. “I liked RBS but I have my roots here, I have a home, I have kids in school.” A few members of his team decided to go, he added, but most chose to stay in the New York area.

The potential shift has profound implications for New York’s tax base and economy because of Wall Street’s outsize financial profile. Last year, the industry contributed 14 percent of New York State’s tax revenue.

After peaking at 213,000 in August 2007, securities industry jobs in the state fell more than 15 percent in the wake of the financial crisis, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since then they have risen nearly 12,000, but at 191,200, employment is well below pre-crisis levels. By contrast, over the same period, Delaware gained 1,300 securities jobs while Arizona picked up 2,600.

The federal government does not specifically track securities jobs in Utah, North Carolina or Florida, popular locations for near-shoring. But data from firms illustrates the trend.

Since the end of 2009, Deutsche Bank’s work force in the New York area has fallen to 6,900 from 7,400 even as its staff in Jacksonville rose to 1,000 from 600. Credit Suisse’sstaff in the New York region has dropped by 500 in the past four years, but the firm has added 450 positions in North Carolina’s Research Triangle, in the area of Raleigh, Cary, Durham and Chapel Hill. And last year, Bank of New York Melloncut 350 jobs in New York City while hiring 150 people in Lake Mary, Fla.

New York’s status as a financial capital is not likely to fade, and the state’s share of securities jobs in the United States has held steady at about 24 percent in recent years. “Even as the securities industry goes through a difficult time, New York remains the financial capital of the world and I don’t see that changing anytime soon,” said Thomas P. DiNapoli, the New York State comptroller.

But regional offices perform more and more of the sophisticated work usually associated with Wall Street and nearby trading hubs like Jersey City and Stamford. This parallels a shift in some technology jobs away from Silicon Valley to Portland, Ore., and cities in Texas, said Michael Shires, a professor at the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine, who prepares an annual ranking of the best cities for employment.

“I expect to see an acceleration,” he said, noting that while these middle-tier jobs may lack the salaries and glamour usually associated with Wall Street, “these are the support people that actually make the stuff work.” What’s more, there are many more positions in the middle of the jobs pyramid at Wall Street firms than at the top.

Deutsche Bank’s office in Jacksonville started out in 2008 as a back-office service center, according to bank officials. Since then, technology workers, legal and compliance staff members, and trading support jobs have been added. More recently, some traders who deal directly with clients are being located there. Lower costs and taxes are behind the moves, the officials said.

J. Keith Crisco, the North Carolina secretary of commerce, visits New York three to five times a year, meeting with executives from firms already in North Carolina, like Credit Suisse, while reaching out to prospects. Another trip is planned this month.

North Carolina provided Credit Suisse with roughly $14 million in incentives to bring it to the state.

Delaware, which announced in April it had lured up to 1,200 JPMorgan Chasejobs to the state, is set to pay the giant bank $10.1 million in cash incentives. Alan Levin, director of the Delaware Economic Development Office, estimates the typical salary for those jobs at $78,000 a year.

“These jobs will be here for a long time,” he said. “We want to create not just jobs but careers.”

The erosion of middle-tier jobs in the financial sector is not limited to New York. In a presentation to analysts in late May, the president of Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn, described what he called the firm’s “high-value location strategy.” By looking outside hubs like New York, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong, he said, the firm could save 40 percent to 75 percent on job-related expenses.

Over a third of Goldman hires in 2011 and 2012 have been in cities like Bangalore in India, Salt Lake City, Dallas and Singapore, Mr. Cohn said. Utah, with looser regulation and lower taxes than New York, has been a particular area of growth for Goldman.

While Goldman’s work force in the New York area has been flat since the end of 2009 at just over 10,000, full-time employees in Salt Lake City have doubled to 1,400, making that office Goldman’s sixth-largest globally. In addition to its technology and operations staff, Goldman has expanded activities like research and investment management there.

These days, Mr. Douyon is building a refinery at the Brooklyn Navy Yard that aims to make biodiesel from waste products like vegetable oil and grease from restaurants. While he says it is a more flexible way of life and, he hopes, more lucrative, he still feels the tug of the trading floor.

“To be honest, I miss working on Wall Street,” he said.

Jessica Silver-Greenberg contributed reporting.

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