A wave of layoffs is sweeping through the domestic brokerage industry as a steep decline in trading volume due to the economic slump has wreaked havoc on their bottom lines, and highly paid analysts are the prime targets. Already, several firms have given the pink slips to some of their analysts and researchers.
"Internally, the atmosphere is worse than what it was like during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis," said an employee at one brokerage. "Most analysts tend to receive high wages, but many of them are contract workers and are viewed by management as the prime targets for restructuring. Many young analysts have already moved to big conglomerates, while the rest are just hanging on and hoping for the best."
Domestic brokerages have seen a marked dip in profits from commissions on stock trades, which are their main sources of income, while increased trading online has meant fewer customers are heading to their branch offices to make investments.
Even until February 2012, total stock trading volume amounted to W10 trillion (US$1=W1,083), but it has now dropped to the mid W4-trillion level. Large brokerages are managing to get by with modest profits, but many smaller firms are struggling to survive the downturn.
Until just a few years ago, the job title of stock analyst was highly coveted due to the chance of making six-figure salaries at a relatively young age. But according to a survey conducted recently by the Korea Employment information Service, being an analyst now ranks at the bottom of the 100 most desirable professions.
"Due to the tough market conditions, the main topic of conversation among analysts these days is about changing jobs," said one analyst.