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A sea change on Bay Street Add to ...

Four years before the credit crisis reared its ugly head, first-year university students were clamouring to get into finance programs. The crisis hit, and job opportunities dried up like the desert.

How do students feel today about the financial services? Is it still glamorous and prestigious?

It really doesn't matter which part of the country you live in, you know the hot bed of the capital markets in Canada is Bay Street. Derrick Fung, co-founder of Young Bay Street Professionals, estimates that for each full-time capital markets position, there are about 2,000 applications from graduating students, and each summer-intern position on Bay Street receives about 1,000 applications from all corners of Canada.

The problem is that the number of positions available is highly correlated with the business cycle. When times are tough, fewer applicants land prime positions. The credit crisis cohort shifted from seeing the brightest minds finding their way onto Bay Street and instead landing off-Bay in roles involving consulting, not-for-profits and corporate social responsibility. Some have said that this was a silver lining, as the sharp end of the graduating classes perpetually tend to make a beeline for the higher wages on Bay Street. Attitudes hit a speed bump, however, as all the shenanigans on Wall Street played out in front of the world.

Further, some Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) recipients in the United States had restrictions on hiring non-U.S. citizens. Not only were there fewer jobs on Bay, there were more and more people looking for work as Canadians migrated back north.

For a while, finance jobs were both uncool and hard to come by.

Luckily, Mr. Fung sees things turning the corner. Whereas in 2009, when students were being frozen out of their first pick of finance jobs in lieu of their second, third and even fourth picks in some cases, these days the thaw is beginning.

Perhaps this latest cohort of young financial genii will bring a heightened sense of ethics to The Street. It certainly seems so with such organizations as Young Bay Street Professionals sprouting up in the past few years. Mr. Fung and the rest of the executives at YBSP organize networking events that also serve to raise funds for local charities. Says Mr. Fung, “It is a very money-driven industry, obviously, and YBSP wants to play a role in fostering the mentality that it is important to give back.”

For example, their latest Yacht Event attracted 80 young Bay Street professionals and they were able to raise $1,200. This money was given to the charity Toronto Youth Development, which helps at-risk, inner-city youth through various educational and sporting programs.

One of the often-understated attributes of the financial services industry is the tremendous amount of money is raises and donates to worthy causes. If future finance grads further the mentality of giving back, perhaps this is part of the new kind of prestige that will continue to attract the best and the brightest.


Preet Banerjee is the W Network’s money expert and a senior vice-president with Pro-Financial Asset Management. His website is wheredoesallmymoneygo.com.

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Follow on Twitter: @preetbanerjee


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