Even as news of investment company layoffs has turned from a trickle into a flood, the pool of new job openings has not dried up.

MetLife is said to be hiring wholesalers, and PacLife and Bank of America are gearing up their own sales forces. Rydex has four mutual fund wholesaler positions advertised on Monster.com.

American Skandia, which expects to announce cuts and recently shuffled its executive structure, is looking for a director of sales for mutual fund wrap products. Even at Lincoln Financial Distributors, which recently laid off 31 wholesalers, spokesperson Tom Gariepy said the firm had several openings in its sales staff.

While the number of companies actively hiring or engaged in distribution build-ups doesn't outweigh those that have cut, like some Wall Street investors, these firms are clearly looking for value at a good price.

"From our perspective, it has enhanced people's level of uncertainty and cautiousness, but I don't think it's created an environment which is substantively more negative. There are still a lot of areas where there's a lot of search work going on and where we're still seeing firms strategically growing their businesses," said George Wilbanks, managing director for executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates.

Wilbanks said that recruiting was put on hold for the several weeks after Sept. 11, but "October was actually a fairly active month for us and people went back to recruiting pretty quickly."

Similarly, Daniel Kreuter, president of search firm D.A. Kreuter Associates in Conshohocken, Pa., said that his firm had recently retained search assignments for companies whose hiring plans had been stalled by the events of Sept. 11. These companies, he said, are taking advantage of the chilly market environment to build a strong sales force when others have pulled back.

More broadly, Kreuter predicted a return to more vigorous hiring within the next six months.

"The fact is, Wall Street will overcut to the bone and panic in bad markets and will tend to overstaff in good markets. I don't know if there's an answer to that, but the needs don't go away and there's going to be significant staffing going on," said Kreuter. "It might not start for a quarter or two, but the smart players are going to use this opportunity to upgrade their field forces."

The softest part of the job market, said Wilbanks, is in the area of customer service and back office operations. "That's where 90% of the cuts [have been made] that I have seen across the investment management business.

"Companies geared up to basically manage extraordinary volumes of business through 2000 and in a somewhat more cautious investment climate, people are simply doing less," he added.

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