Investment Bankers Face Employment Crisis

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- Denis Parisien knows Latin America, and he thought he could base a Wall Street career on that knowledge.

An economist with a bachelor's degree in Latin American studies and experience living and working in the region, he rode the wave of surging investor interest in Latin America in the early 1990s. He moved from job to job, improving his position and increasing his income along the way.

But last Nov. 20, with emerging markets around the globe suspect, Parisien was fired from his job as head of Latin America equity research at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, the North American investment banking arm of Dresdner Bank of Germany. He's now living on his severance and keeping up to date by attending conferences about Latin America. If worse comes to worst, Parisien said he might forget about investment firms and look for a corporate job. "I'll go to Boston, Los Angeles, Brazil, Paris," he says. "I can be an economist or a strategist." Parisien is one of thousands of people whose jobs were eliminated at investment firms worldwide as a result of the 1998 emerging markets crisis that saw stock markets plunge across the globe, in Thailand, in Russia and finally in Latin America. Investment firms' commissions and fees plunged, forcing the companies to fire people and cut salaries. Like Parisien, many of them were midlevel and even upper-level executives -- people whose annual pay ranged anywhere from $150,000 to $1 million. Some were luckier than others. Alexander Knaster, chief executive officer at Alfa Bank in Moscow, kept his job -- though he had to take a 40 percent pay cut along with his colleagues. Knaster arrived at Alfa last August, two weeks before Russia devalued the ruble, from a job as head of Credit Suisse First Boston in Moscow. …