Wall Street may need fewer traders and bankers and more Ph.D.s and behavioral scientists.
After a tough quarter for big banks, where head count was reduced and compensation drastically cut, there are some silver linings for people looking for work in the financial services industry. The downside is that for many seasoned Wall Street veterans, big banks are looking to tech-focused roles as they build out digital businesses.
"Data science is robust and active in financial institutions, momentum has been increasing over the last two years," said Michael Karp, CEO of recruitment firm Options Group. "We're seeing a lot of demand, particularly on the consumer side."
Big banks aren't just looking for tech-proficient staffers to bolster trading desks any longer. They're trying to do more with rewards programs, which data and behavioral scientists can refine.
"[H]ead count in the consumer businesses is up slightly and that's a combination of the investments we're making in technology and digital," JPMorgan Chase CFO Marianne Lake said on the bank's earnings call in April.
While JPMorgan added hundreds of staffers in tech roles, it cut head count overall. But it's still bringing on digital talent, in the New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Wilmington, Delaware, offices, according to a bank spokeswoman. A posting on LinkedIn from Chase seeks a data scientist to turn its "massive data into useful insights to deeply personalize the digital experience of our millions of customers."
On Deck Capital, which partnered with JPMorgan to originate more small-business loans in late 2015, is also seeking senior data scientists "to reshape the face of small-business lending by digging deep into the mountains of data that traditional banks have overlooked."
Other banks are also looking for talent to shore up growing digital operations.
"[W]e've continued to invest in the areas we can grow; $3 billion in technology-related growth initiatives, especially in areas of digital practice," Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said on its earnings call.
The bank has more than a half-dozen LinkedIn advertisements seeking new hires for various data and analytics roles, all based in New York.
Even Goldman Sachs, which recently launched an online savings account offering for consumers, is looking for tech pros to work on things including digital consumer lending and an "app bank," according to recently posted ads on LinkedIn. In the iOS app store, there are Goldman Sachs apps for wealth management and asset management clients. A recent presentation from Goldman executives at an industry conference highlighted that technology head count rose 8 percent between 2012 and 2015.
A Goldman spokesman declined to comment.
While some banks responded to declining profitability by slashing head count in areas including trading and banking, Karp points out that equity traders are back in vogue on Wall Street.
"It's the focal point for these financial institutions to grow," Karp said.
Bankers and traders should still take heart, another recruiter said. After a disastrous start to 2016, there remains a chance that a sustained rebound will bring more jobs back to Wall Street.
"Banks notoriously tend to overcut," said David McCormack, CEO of recruitment firm DMC Partners. "When they have a good run, they need to hire again."