Equity researchers: life after ABN?

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ABN AMRO is trimming its equity research team. How easy will it be for the redundant researchers to walk into new jobs elsewhere?

Financial News reports that the Dutch bank is lopping a technology sector analyst, telecoms analysts and a head of mid-cap oil research as part of its programme to cut front-office staff in London by 10%.

The researchers may have taken voluntary redundancy - which would seem to suggest confidence that there are alternative research jobs in the offing. Several headhunters tell us this is indeed the case.

"Everyone's hiring," says Jonathan Evans, managing director of search firm Sammons Associates. "Banks are hiring equity researchers and so are hedge funds. There's no shortage of jobs."

"Most institutions are recruiting," confirms another equity-focused headhunter. "Sectors like property and metals and mining are particularly hot."

Despite unbundling and the divorce of equity research from corporate finance, headhunters also say researchers did well in the last bonus round. "I'd give bonuses a 7/10," says Evans. "Most people were quite happy."

However, Simon Vaughan Edwards, a director at search firm Akamai Financial Markets, says opportunities for equity researchers are "fast dwindling" in mainstream investment banks, and for some researchers the best bet will be to join a hedge fund or research boutique. He says hedge funds have increased base salaries for researchers, and a handful of those at major hedge funds are earning $1m (514k).

"The large investment banks are finding it increasingly difficult to monetise their research product," explains Vaughan Edwards. "But if you have a breadth of sector understanding and are commercially minded and trading focused, there's constant demand for equity analysts in hedge funds."

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