Time to quit Wall Street for a job in the Caribbean? South America?

February 4, 2016

By Dan Butcher

It’s winter on Wall Street. Your bonus is down, layoffs loom, and the weather is fierce. If there were ever a time to move to a more exotic location, this might be it.

Want a job in the Caribbean or somewhere else with a warm climate? Recruiters say the jobs are out there.

“There’s a lot of interest for financial services experts in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America,” said Larry Rubin, managing partner of Mexico at DHR International, a recruiting firm.

Elite finance professionals are availing themselves of the opportunities. Dillon Bacon, the Princeton graduate and son of Moore Capital founder Louis Bacon who just joined Goldman in London spent time interning in Argentina, which lost plenty of its homegrown finance professionals afterArgentine markets crashed in 2001. Many of the big-name US banks still have operations in emerging South American markets.

Goldman Sachs, for example, has offices in Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires and Santiago, Chile. J.P. Morgan too has offices in Buenos Aires, Brazil, Sao Paulo, Caracas, Bogotá, Lima, Santiago (Chile), Panama City, Nassau in the Bahamas, Mexico City and Monterrey, Mexico. The biggestprivate equity fundsare also active in South America: KKR, Apax Partners and TPG all have a Sao Paulo office, and the Carlyle Group has a presence in both Sao Paulo and Lima.

Some banks are pulling back from South America. Deutsche Bank, for example, is planning to cuthalf its team in Brazil and Goldman Sachs has been slimming down its Brazil-based office, but said last year that it’s still committed to the country.

However, there are options for bankers who want to stretch their wings. William Koutney, a recruitment consultant at CML, said there are also plenty of opportunities in family offices in South America, as well as in the Caribbean: “Analyst roles for CFAs within family offices and for investment managers that are analogous to similar roles traditionally seen in investment banks [on Wall Street].”

Rubin says demand is strongest for auditors, comptrollers, CFOs, directors and finance managers. Most of the positions are pretty senior because hiring in an expat is costly – it only makes sense for the biggest hitters on the market.

Mexico and Central America

Morgan Stanley is currently hiring a vice president of Latin American mid-cap equity research in Mexico City. Also in Mexico, UBS is looking to hire a client wealth management adviser and a research analyst for its global Chief Investment Office. Citibank is looking to hire a range of AVPs, VPs and SVPs in Mexico City, as well as credit portfolio analysts.

Recruiters say Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, also has a significant number of foreign nationals operating in the financial services industry. So too does San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, along with Guatemala and Panama.

BBVA/Bancomer, Citi/Banamex, BofA/Banco Santander, HSBC, Banorte and Scotiabank all have a significant presence in Panama, which Rubin calls “the strongest country [in terms of its] financial industry in Central America.” Additionally, Panama has many Colombian banks, as well as Banco de Guayaquil, Banco de Colombia and Korea Bank.

Needless to say, pay is lower in Mexico and South America. Glassdoor puts average salaries for analysts at Goldman Sachs in Mexico City at $69k. In New York City, the average is slightly higher at $84k.

The Caribbean and Bermuda

Bermuda and the Cayman Islands are always “in season” for hiring qualified accountants, especially those with a few years of audit experience, Koutney said. The Cayman Islands in particular is flush with highly educated and well-trained accountants (CA, CPA, ACA, ACCA) and finance professionals (CFA, CAIA) from English-speaking countries around the globe. 

The reason for this is simple: hedge funds and captive insurers benefit by domiciling in the Cayman Islands in order to obtain expertise in professional services – including audit, legal, advisory, administration and management – and a trusted regulatory system with legislation that is friendly to financial services, according to CML.

Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica also have a significant number of financial services companies that hire expats.

UBS is currently looking to hire a senior compliance officer in the Cayman Islands. The Big Four are also big hirers in the Cayman islands and Caribbean.  EY is hiring a restructuring senior for its Transaction Advisory Services (TAS) practice in the Cayman Islands, a position that should pay in the $85-$105k range, according to Glassdoor. It is also looking to hire an audit senior in its Wealth & Asset Management (FSO) practice based in the same office, which should pay in the $80k range.

Koutney said he’s placed expats in the following roles recently in the Caribbean: audit seniors at Big 4 and mid-tier firms for $65k-$70k; Big 4 tax seniors for $65k-$70k; captive insurance managers at $75k-$90K; and actuaries/actuarial analysts for $100k-$150k.

While none of these would rank among the best paying accounting jobs in the U.S., the cost of living is significantly lower outside of major financial centers.

Lifestyle is also a significant factor. “Most ex-pats in the Cayman Islands live within walking distance of world-famous Seven Mile Beach and enjoy weekends filled with beach BBQs, boat trips, scuba diving and sand between their toes,” Koutney said. “Most commutes on island are five minutes or less, so there is a real savings in terms of personal time for sports, going to the gym and hobbies that really contributes to an improved quality of life.”