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Ready to Brave Bears : Aspiring Brokers Unfazed by Tough Times on Wall St.

December 12, 1987|JIM SCHACHTER | Times Staff Writer

Some people want to sell Chevys in Japan. Some people want to sell sno-cones in the Antarctic.

And some people still want to go into the securities business--despite the mid-October crash on Wall Street and the wave of layoffs that has swept the industry in the weeks since.

At Test Passing Associates, a test-preparation center in downtown Los Angeles, students cramming this week for a National Assn. of Securities Dealers licensing exam positively bubbled with enthusiasm at the prospect of getting started in the post-crash market.

"There's so many people getting out of it that there's going to be so much opportunity getting into it," said 20-year-old Jason Froehlich of Venice, who paid about $400 for the seven-day course even though he has no guarantee of a job even if he passes the licensing test.

"I don't want to call it cocky, but I'm confident in myself," said Froehlich, a student at Santa Monica College. "I know how to sell myself to get to the place I want to be."

A Good Time for Novices?

Froelich and the 30-odd students in instructor William K. Cantrell's class are not alone. Large brokerages and independent training programs alike report that interest in entering the securities business has remained surprisingly strong since the market's collapse.

Jobs won't be easy to come by. Industry analysts say recruitment and training programs are likely to share in the cutbacks that some Wall Street and regional firms are making in frantic response to crash-related losses.

But new brokers are a source of revenue, the analysts note. So opportunities won't disappear completely.

"This may be a good time to enter the industry," Perrin Long, a veteran securities-industry analyst with Lipper Analytical Securities in New York, said Friday.

"I can't deny you're going to have to work doubly hard to get new customers. And I can't also deny the revenues you could receive from your hard work would be considerably less than what they might have been in 1985, 1986 or 1987," Long said. "But when the market does improve and the economy improves, then you're going to have your hard work behind you."

Students at the Los Angeles training course--breaking for lunch after a morning spent studying bond ratings and learning short cuts for calculating yield-to-maturity--were convinced that the industry's gloom would be short-lived.

"It's just a temporary low," said Michael Walter, 23, who is working for William O'Neil Co., an institutional brokerage in West Los Angeles, while studying for his license. "Most of these things last about six months," Walter said. "Most bull markets go two or three years after that."

Held Corporate Posts

The handful of older students in the otherwise youthful class expressed little hesitation about abandoning other pursuits to enter the unpredictable world of high finance.

"The period of being a novice has got to occur in anything you get into," said a philosophical Joe Newman, 40, who is leaving behind a marketing job in the entertainment industry to accept a pre-crash offer to sell stocks. "Hopefully that will be out of the way by the time the market stabilizes a little bit."

Before his retirement in 1984, Stuart Evey was a vice president of Getty Oil and chairman of ESPN, the all-sports cable television network that he helped launch. Now, he said, he needs a brokers' license to become a partner in a financial planning firm--a field where he expects opportunities to widen in the post-crash environment.

"We've seen a lot of bloodshed since Oct. 19," Evey, 54, explained. "People need the things we offer."

Experience in the securities industry indicates that the ranks of brokers shrink less in downturns than they expand in bull markets.

In the bear market of the mid-1970s, the number of general securities license holders fell 5%, dropping from 201,000 to 191,000, according to the NASD. But during the boom period from 1980 through the middle of this year, the number of licensees more than doubled, climbing from 196,000 to 440,000.

Walter, for one, is prepared to brave the bears.

"It's good to learn about it when you're young," the UCLA graduate said of the market's heartless downside. "You can apply it to the rest of your career, as opposed to the people who came in a year ago. They thought it was really easy."

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