GUEST COMMENT: Don't give up hope

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As I watched the television pictures of bemused and worried staff leaving Lehman Brothers' offices on the day it collapsed, I was struck by a comment one senior banker made to me: "They won't know it for a while yet, but for a lot of them, this will turn out to be the best thing that's happened to them."

What could have prompted him to say such a thing? His own personal experience for one thing. Being part of a large firm that collapsed several years ago caused him to re-evaluate what he was doing and, as a result, he has ended up in a smaller firm where he is much happier.

So, is there light at the end of the tunnel for the many financial services workers being impacted by today's problems? I believe the answer is "yes". Experience of previous bear markets and economic downturns has shown that these times when the world seems to change beyond recognition often throw up new opportunities. The period that followed 9/11, for example, saw many investment bankers who had specialised in small and mid cap stocks lose their jobs as the major houses withdrew from this market. Within a short space of time, however, the gap had been filled by the rise of a large number of smaller, independent broking houses and M&A boutiques, all keen to hire good quality talent.

Turbulent times such as these will also bring opportunities in related areas. A range of organisations will need to think about hiring staff with relevant experience as they grapple with the consequences of what we are seeing - organisations such as regulators, litigators and insolvency practitioners, for example.

I wouldn't want to understate the trauma that many employees will be suffering as a result of the recent events in financial markets, but the message is "Don't give up hope". You may need to think laterally about your career direction and be patient, but experience shows that new opportunities will arise at some stage. For some of you, the end result may be a decision that your future lies outside financial services - but if you end up being happier in the long run, is that necessarily such a bad thing?

Stephen Lockley is a partner at the corporate finance advisory firm, Wyvern Partners. In a career spanning almost 30 years, he has witnessed at first hand many economic and market downturns, as well as the subsequent recoveries.

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