Sg Cowen

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REV: JANUARY 19, 2006

THOMAS DELONG
VINEETA VIJAYARAGHAVAN

SG Cowen: New Recruits
We are who we recruit.
— SG Cowen professional

Chip Rae, director of recruiting at SG Cowen, looked out the conference room window at the falling flakes and wondered how fast the snow was accumulating. Most of the firm’s bankers had come in from Connecticut or Westchester to participate in the Super Saturday recruiting event, and he knew they were anxious to get home before the weather deteriorated and made travel dangerous. The interviews had finished at noon, and the candidates from various graduate schools had left for their flights right away. Now, the bankers were eating lunch, discussing interview results and making decisions. They were sitting in “Giants Stadium,” the bank’s largest conference room, and Rae had set the tables up in a U-shape so that he could stand in the front and still communicate with all 30 bankers. He posted placards with all the candidate names on the bulletin board and moved them around as they came up for discussion.

The hiring meeting had moved rapidly through a number of candidates. The decision makers had agreed on candidates who were firm “yeses” and some other clear “nos.” Now was the tricky part: there were four candidates still left. Each person had some strong support among their interviewers but had also raised some questions. To reach the ideal class size after factoring in expected yield, Rae wanted to give out only two more offers.

Investment Banking Industry in 2001
Consolidation in the investment banking industry was widespread, as major firms bought small banks, bought retail brokers, and considered partnering with commercial banks. Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and equities remained the highest-margin businesses but also very volatile, as deal volume and initial public offering (IPO) issuances could dry up very quickly in a downturn. In a down market, fixed income’s more stable revenue stream was especially welcome. Integrated banking groups such as Citigroup or JP Morgan Chase were sometimes able to win investment banking business away from the traditional bulge-bracket firms because of their ability to offer loans and other commercial banking capabilities. Some strategists believed the lending business was the ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Professor Thomas DeLong and Research Associate Vineeta Vijayaraghavan prepared this case. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management.

Copyright © 2002 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.

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SG Cowen: New Recruits

wave of the future, while others targeted the custody business. The custody business, which involved holding and processing the buying and selling of securities for investors, was a low-risk fee-based business that was considered mundane but offered regular opportunities for interaction and service to potential clients.

Several investment banks reported declining profits, and some laid off staff to cut costs. The biggest expense on Wall Street was compensation costs, averaging 50% of revenue.1 In the prosperous years on Wall Street in the late 1990s, some firms had salary and bonus costs upwards of 60%, since firms signed multiyear contracts promising fixed bonus payouts to keep talent and also signed separate profit-sharing agreements with...
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