America’s financial powerhouses see a big losing trade coming — some of the toughest new federal restrictions in decades on hiring the best and brightest foreign talent.
If enacted, the sweeping immigration measures — including cutting back on coveted “professional” HB-1 visas for prized workers — could undermine productivity and income statements in US financial services, Street executives say, as talented non-Americans are snatched away for coveted jobs in overseas markets by more gung-ho rivals.
Wall Street, these executives fear, may no longer be able to draw quantitative analysts, bankers and traders of exotic instruments through the US visa program. They increasingly imagine an unwelcoming place where a virtual wall, not quite Mexican border-style, keeps these type-A foreign workers out.
“This is going to hurt Wall Street,” Julissa Arce, 33, a former Goldman Sachs staffer in structured finance in New York, told The Post. “It also creates uncertainties for some employees themselves, who don’t know if their visas will be renewed.”
Arce knows the feeling well. A native of Mexico and a US college grad, she once kept her real identify as an undocumented worker at Goldman carefully hidden from her bosses.
Last week, Arce spoke about efforts to undercut the American Dream for other undocumented pros.
“My family and I are very proud of what I was able to accomplish, despite the fact I was undocumented,” Arce said. “Lost in my story is that I am not the only person who has had a successful career in a professional setting, despite having been undocumented. I just wish the path was not as filled with so many challenges.”
The overhaul of US immigration policy being considered by the Trump administration includes sharp reductions in HB-1 visas from the current 84,000 annually, which is fueling much of the anxiety.
Goldman, like other Street firms, as a policy does not hire employees without green cards, legal residence or US citizenship.
Still, Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s chief executive, recently weighed in on President Trump’s efforts to restrict immigration from seven countries.
Blankfein, in a reported voicemail to the firm’s 34,000 employees, said the effort was a policy the firm could not support.
The Trump action is presently blocked, in part, by federal courts.
Human resources managers across the Street are seeking guidance. This month, a webinar on immigration reform hosted by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), a research and advisory services firm for Wall Street and others, drew a record 2,000 HR executives, as much as a fourfold increase over CEB’s typical webinar participation rate.
“Companies are struggling with the sheer uncertainty of what happens on immigration, for professionals coming in on work visas,” said Brian Kropp, the HR practice manager at CEB, noting how there are as many as 1 million professionals overall in the US on professional visas. And as many as 15 percent of employees in the US tech industry, which bolsters the fortunes and back offices of Wall Street, may be here on these same professional visas, he added.
Former Goldman staffer Arce says immigration restrictions on financial professionals could have long-term, damaging consequences.
“This doesn’t smell like US immigration reform,” she said. “From my perspective, it seems like we are going backwards.”
The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
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