Mass layoffs

Since the financial crisis rocked Wall Street a year ago, the numbers of employees laid off from the largest firms have been staggering.

Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., UBS AG, Credit Suisse Group AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. have shed more than 70,000 jobs combined. Lehman Bros. laid off 7,000 about the time it filed for bankruptcy last September. More than 7,600 people were out of a job practically overnight when Bear Stearns collapsed in March 2008.

"You had people at Bear Stearns who were incredibly successful at what they did and they were never going to leave," said John Mack, managing director of Imperial Capital. "When their firm disappeared, all of those people were on the street; all of those people were made available. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Indeed, many of the investment bankers would never have considered moving to a small firm if their hands had not been forced.

"I probably would have stayed if not for the upheaval. You get used to a certain platform," said Schiamberg of Wedbush Morgan, who nevertheless said he found the switch refreshing. "It's a bit like working at a young company."

These days, though, Wedbush Morgan is looking less and less like a boutique. Over the past year, the firm has expanded from 700 employees to 1,000, largely because of a series of acquisitions it has made in the Southwestern United States since the economy turned south. But it also has picked up Wall Street talent where it could, including Jonathen Zauderer, who left Citigroup to join Wedbush Morgan in July.

Edward Wedbush, who helped found Wedbush Morgan in 1955, said he has been impressed by the marked increase in quality of the resumes landing on his desk these days.

"Many of them have very excellent educational levels, including Ph.D.s, M.D. degrees, M.B.A.s," he said.

Flood of resumes

Prior to the market upheaval, Lloyd Greif, president of Greif & Co., said he would rarely have more than a couple of resumes on his desk at any time. Today, he has dozens, and they're rolling in from across the country.

"There's no question that this is probably the largest dislocation in financial talent that I've seen in my lifetime and I've been doing this for nearly three decades," he said.

One local firm, in fact, was born out of the turmoil. In 2007, as the financial markets were already in decline, investment banking star Ken Moelis left UBS to start Moelis & Co. To build the business, he brought in many of those he knew at UBS and his prevoius firm, Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette.

Moelis & Co. has handled some high-profile deals in its brief existence, including the $26 billion acquisition of Hilton Hotels by Blackstone Group LP and the $60 billion purchase of Anheuser-Busch Cos. by InBev NV. Earlier this year, Moelis ranked as one of the 20 largest M & A; firms in the country by market share, according to data from Bloomberg News.

The firm, which started the year with 144 employees, now has 230. The effort has included a number of notable additions, such as Stuart Goldstein, who left Citigroup to join Moelis' Century City office in May as a managing director.

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