End of dream run

2 Oct, 2008 │ Ishani Duttagupta │ ET Bureau

The Wall Street crisis has had a huge impact on the large number of Indians working as investment bankers in the US and in London. In fact, a large number of students who are in the graduating class of top B-schools in the US too have been impacted, with job prospects having been badly hit. The one-year optional practical training (OPT) which foreign students are entitled to after they finish their courses in the US has come as a big relief for many Indian students, who can now look for a job while their visa is still valid.

Recently, the OPT period was extended from 12 to 29 months for students on F-1 visas with a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics who are employed by businesses enrolled in the ‘E-Verify’ programme. However, for many Indians who were on H1B visas and worked for the investment banks on Wall Street and have now lost their jobs, the only option is to leave the US within 15 days unless they find another job.

Some of the options available to Indian investment bankers and finance professionals who have to now leave the US, is to seek alternative jobs in financial centres such as Dubai and Singapore. Others are also looking at the option of moving back to India or even shifting to China.

Singapore is one of the biggest financial hubs in Asia and has been attracting skilled Indian professionals in a big way. “We are already seeing a large increase in enquiries and investment bankers from London and US are exploring options in Singapore and Dubai. I think a majority of them also realise that the crisis will inadvertently have a ripple effect across the globe and reach these countries too so there is that mixed approach and while some people are exploring jobs in these countries, others are seeking alternative career options in other allied industries which are impacted in a lesser way,” says Nina Alag Suri, founder and MD of Rec2rec, a specialist recruitment company in Singapore. Ms Alag Suri also feels that since Singapore is more of a private banking hub, there is still a sense of optimism where as Hong Kong which is the investment banking power base in the region is likely to see slower growth in the coming months.

Steven Yeong, chief talent evangelist at Hof Consulting in Singapore, feels that given the global nature of the crisis, there’s not likely to be much of talent movement to Singapore in the short term. “However, I believe that the financial hubs of Dubai and Singapore and even Hong Kong are in a stronger position than those in the US and therefore in the mid-term there will be a gravitational shift of Indian investment bankers to Dubai and Singapore,” he says.

Some HR experts feel that considering that all the firms impacted by the crisis are global and since the impact is spreading globally, many finance professionals are likely to move to other sectors where their expertise is valued. Says Gita Dang, founder director of Talent Advisory Services a boutique executive search firm: “These positions could be in financial services firms/ corporate roles as well as the PE/VC firms. Consequently, it could mean that some of them could move for the right opportunity to almost any major city in the world.”

Ms Alag Suri feels that there will be a huge number of entrepreneurs and self-employed professionals as the jobs become difficult to find. “Globally, small consulting firms and talent management firms will see more work. I don’t think there will be too big an impact on the healthcare, FMCG and manufacturing sectors,” she says.

Others like Anu Parthasarathy, CEO, Global Executive Talent, eel that there will be a great deal of talent movement eastwards towards China, India and Taiwan as well as to eastern Europe. “In areas such as IT, Indians already provide leadership talent and management depth globally. Now with a steady erosion of jobs in the West, jobs in sectors such as IT and ITeS are moving towards India and China in a big way,” says Ms Parthasarathy who is an expert in cross-border leadership search.

There are mixed perceptions about career decisions on international MBAs as well. While some feel that the current situation will make students wary about choosing expensive MBA courses with specialisations in finance, others feel that this could be a great opportunity to take a break from a job and go in for a management degree. “Students going for their MBAs now would not be as starry-eyed about their internships as well as about campus placements in banks and FIs,” says Ms Dang.

Mr Yeong, on the other hand, feels that an international MBA is a good “place to hide” right now. “In this environment a selling point for many MBA schools would be to encourage prospective students to do their MBAs and ride it out for the next couple of years,” he says