Hey, where are all the Wall Street jobs?

Updated on
The World

BANGALORE — Not long ago, students of the graduating class at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, or IIMB, made headlines with their $300,000 a year job offers from foreign banks.

But what a difference a global financial crisis makes.

Half a world away, Wall Street’s collapse has triggered an entirely different scenario during campus placements on this leafy suburban campus, India’s top business school.

Wall Street investment banks — prolific recruiters in the past — were conspicuous by their absence this year.

Also missing? The usual swagger and smugness of the graduating class, a cadre of India’s brightest and most talented that had formerly been wooed by an array of high-flying multinational banks and global companies.

“It is a sign of the times,” conceded Sourav Mukherji, an associate professor of organization and a placement coordinator at IIMB. Moreover, the recruiting process that usually ends in five days stretched to nine this year.

In 2008, Lehman Brothers hired 11 IIMB graduates, Deutsche Bank seven, Merrill Lynch six, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan five each. Not one of these banks showed up at the campus this year.

Each year some 300,000 Indians compete to get into the coveted IIMs (they exist in several major cities), a selection process that is said to be more grueling than admission at Harvard or Stanford because of the sheer numbers. The select few who make it are considered to have won the "career lottery."

For many of these top-of-the-heap graduates fantasizing about the red Ferrari and the Manhattan penthouse overlooking Central Park, high-paying investment banking jobs offer a choice of international locations like New York, London and Tokyo.

For the typical IIM graduate, whose average age is 23, Wall Street jobs promised action as well as global exposure at a tender age.

In turn, investment banks chased the smart, talented IIM graduates, whose two-year education focuses heavily on the analytical skills that were much sought-after on Wall Street.

This year, reality hit the graduating class in large doses, said Mukherji of the placement committee.

For many, the allure of Wall Street faded months ago. Even the 50 students who interned last summer at investment banks said they had a change of heart about the financial sector after the meltdown.

Many felt they were not cut out for something that changed so much, so soon. Others said they could not handle the uncertainty of losing a job in a foreign location.

“It was a tough year and students were preparing much more than usual for placement interviews,” said Vineet Sharma, member of the student placement committee at IIMB, which handles all the back-end during placement week. “After Wall Street’s collapse, nobody quite knew what was going to happen during campus placements.”

With the luster of Wall Street waning, India’s state-owned firms turned seriously fashionable on campus this year. As many as 15 students chose to accept offers from government-run companies such as Bharat Petroleum and National Thermal Power Corporation.

 Other recent stories by Saritha Rai in India:

Bollywood’s big night at the Ocars

Cubicle commandos in Bangalore

The Wal-Mart of India 

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.