Friday, March 06, 2009

Poaching Talent: Burgh Diaspora Style

A sure sign of a troubled economy and inter-regional variance in the economy, headhunters are scouring Pittsburgh South (a.k.a. Charlotte, NC) for talent:

First Commonwealth Financial Corp., a regional bank with $6 billion in assets based in Indiana, Pa., has targeted Charlotte in recent weeks. It advertised openings in branch management, sales, accounting, business banking, information technology and corporate services.

“Uncertainty in your future?” the ad begins. “First Commonwealth may be the place for you. We are seeking talented individuals to join our team in Western/Central Pennsylvania.”

Thaddeus Clements, First Commonwealth executive vice president, says he targeted Charlotte for two reasons. He hopes to attract talented workers anxious about their future or displaced by locally based Bank of America Corp. and the former Wachovia Corp. And he says many Charlotte-area residents claim Northern ties and may be interested in returning because of family connections.

A boomerang migration initiative? Brilliant.

“Everyone’s champing at the bit to pull people from Charlotte right now,” says one locally based recruiter. “A lot of it is going on under the table right now.”

Recruiting efforts from out-of-state competitors make sense, given the layoffs and shakeups at BofA, the nation’s largest retail bank, and Wachovia, now part of Wells Fargo & Co.

But there’s also irony to the trend, considering so many Charlotte workers fled Northern cities for the Carolinas in the past decade.

UNC Charlotte banking expert Tony Plath calls the recruiting a sign of the times.

“It’s like shooting fish in a barrel to recruit bank talent in Charlotte,” he says. “This is one of the best talent pools in the country for large-scale retail banking.” ...

... Clements, the First Commonwealth vice president, agrees his bank will face challenges recruiting in Charlotte. But he also contends First Commonwealth isn’t a hillbilly operation.

It ranks fifth in deposits in the Pittsburgh market. Clements says the bank will add three Pittsburgh-area branches this year. The bank already has more than half of its 115 branches in the Pittsburgh region and operates its headquarters about an hour away from that city.

First Commonwealth experienced steady growth in recent years through a series of acquisitions and expansions. It recently led the way on a financing consortium for the development of Dick’s Sporting Goods’ world headquarters in Pittsburgh.

Bank officials hope their strong balance sheet — including no government bailouts and a $100 million public offering last year — and a strong metropolitan presence will lure bankers from Charlotte.

“We’re looking for people interested in returning to the area,” Clements says. “And we’re interested in people looking for a new adventure.”

I'm having a great morning.

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