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Big banks are ‘still looking for talent’

By Andrew Dunn, McClatchy Newspapers –

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Headlines about layoffs at major banks have become routine as companies like Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. work through cost cuts.

But recruiters and bank representatives say that Charlotte’s two biggest banking presences are still hiring, albeit at a slower pace. New hiring is more selective and driven by demand and by the banks’ strategies.

“They’re still looking for talent in specific areas,” said Tom Maupin, a partner at Charlotte recruiting firm Vaco Resources.

Bank of America is in the midst of laying off 30,000 workers — about 10 percent of its workforce — as part of a companywide cost-cutting initiative known as Project New BAC. Last month, the bank gave notices to some workers in its technology and operations division, including some in Charlotte.

Wells Fargo, too, has a cost-cutting program, called Project Compass. A bank spokesman said Wells Fargo is not looking for a set number of job cuts, instead focusing on finding efficiencies. But the bank’s quest to cut about $1.5 billion in expenses will inevitably involve some job losses.

Overall, it was a bad year for financial industry employment. Last month, Bloomberg estimated that there were to be 50,000 job losses among North American banks, insurers and asset managers, and about 200,000 worldwide.

But there have been a number of bright spots.

Throughout the year, Bank of America made a series of announcements reporting that it had hired new bankers to serve small-business customers and “preferred” customers — meaning those who have between $50,000 to $250,000 in investable assets.

“We continue, clearly, to hire talent where we have identified opportunities,” said spokeswoman Ferris Morrison.

The Charlotte-based bank also has made hires in its legacy asset servicing division, which deals with problem loans largely assumed when it acquired Countrywide Financial Corp. in 2008.

“If they’re trying to clean up things, logically, they’ll of course need talented people to do that,” said John Baldassarre, president of the financial-services recruiter Tryon Search Group.

And as mortgage rates have remained at record lows, other banks have been hiring employees to handle refinancing. Some, like Chase, have hired in mortgage modification.

Both BB&T and JPMorgan Chase list mortgage loan officers among their “jobs in demand” on their websites, and a Wells Fargo spokesman said mortgage processing is an area it has targeted with demand.

Few details were available for Charlotte specifically.

But at Wells Fargo, the plan is to keep employment levels roughly unchanged in 2012, said spokeswoman Christine Shaw.

“We’re going to continue to hire next year, but it’s going to be based on customer demand and market need in businesses where it makes sense,” Shaw said.

In the future, however, recruiters say there is likely to be a significant number of new employees needed to help the banks comply with new federal regulations. The Dodd-Frank financial reform law, passed last summer, brings with it several hundred new rules that are still being crafted.

“The regulations are changing, and so they’re probably having to go out and get data from different places they’ve never had to go before,” Maupin said.

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