Destination Detroit: Finance Jobs in the 313

Published: Mar 24, 2011


According to recent census statistics, Detroit's population has plummeted 25 percent in the past 10 years and is now at an all-century low. This is quite a fall for the Motor City, which not long ago ranked among the top five U.S. cities by population. That's the bad news. The good news is despite Detroit's vacant lots, vacant houses, shrinking population, and questionable safety, there are several thriving companies in the city, many of which offer top-notch job opportunities in the areas of finance and accounting.

Go Big 3

Motown is, of course, home of the Big 3 automakers: GM, Ford, and Chrysler. And each of these automakers are not only making money again after several rough years, but also carrying prestige worldwide as employers (who on the planet hasn't heard of these firms?).

For the most part, those seeking accounting jobs, as opposed to finance-related ones, will find more opportunities at the Big 3. And perhaps the best programs offered by the Big 3 are for college juniors (that is, internships). However, there are several solid opportunities for entry-level and experienced full-time professionals.

Take Ford, for example. For entry-level professionals, Ford runs something called the Global Accounting Acumen Program for recent college graduates. The program offers employees two- to five-year rotations over the course of eight to 10 years, aiming to develop key employees within its global accounting organization. So, if you're looking for security and to stay with one firm for the better part of a decade (or longer) this could be the program for you (if not, steer clear). Ford also offers a very fine financial analyst internship program. Ideally, interns will be college juniors with at least a 3.25 GPA, and studying finance, business, economics, accounting, or stastistics. Of course, strong analytical skills are required. Note: Ford visits campuses to recruit for these positions. In addition, Ford (like GM and Chrysler) offers experienced positions in both finance and accounting. Openings can be found on the firms' careers websites.

Or Big 4

With the Big 3 and numerous auto-part makers in Motown, there needs to be a few thousand folks nearby to do these companies' books. That's where the Big 4 accounting firms come in. And each (PwC, KPMG, Ernst & Young, and Deloitte) has a significant presence in the city, thus offering accounting professionals as well as finance pros several options if they wish to make Detroit their home.

Take Deloitte, for example. This member of the Big 4 has about 900 Detroit-based employees, including 90 partners. Deloitte's main office in the D is located in the Renaissance Center, the city's signature skyscraper that's also home to General Motors. This means you'll likely be lunching alongside a GM exec at some point if you work for Deloitte in audit, financial advisory, consulting, tax, or enterprise risk services. Currently, there are more than 100 positions available in Deloitte's Detroit location. Like Deloitte, the rest of the Big 4 firms also offer numerous options for would be Detroiters; all three also have prime locations south of 8 Mile.

Raise a hellacious amount of capital

Venture capital and private equity aren't the first areas of finance you think of when you think of Detroit, but the city does have a growing scene of investors committed to staying and pumping money in the city. Two investment management firms of note are Detroit Venture Partners (a newcomer that was founded last year) and Huron Capital Partners (which has been around since 1999).

As for Detroit Venture Partners, the first thing you should know if you want to join DVP is this: you'll need to be a fan of "Austin Powers" (check out DVP's employees' bios). Second, you'll have to be comfortable working for a self-described "deranged super-genius," "wizard behind the curtain," "curious, big-thinker," who "digs comic sans font and hair product" and who happens to also own the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers. Third, even to apply, you're required to have founded at least two tech companies -- that is, all the current DVP execs are former tech entrepreneurs and business owners.

Huron Capital is a little more traditional. The PE firm was started by two Michiganders (one who gained his experience in commercial banking, the other in the middle-market buyout business), as well as two graduates from Duke's Fuqua School (which makes me wonder if all four were watching that second-round NCAA game in which the Wolverines nearly humiliated the Blue Devils last week). Meanwhile, all of the younger professionals at Huron Capital hold a degree from the University of Michigan, meaning it probably helps your chances of getting hired if you do too.

Don't forget Ally

The automobile finance company formerly known as GMAC, Ally Financial is yet another formidable finance employer in the Great Lake State and car capital. Ally, in which GM holds a minority interest and the U.S. government holds a major one, had a tough time during the financial crisis and was forced to take federal bailout money. More recently, though, Ally has regained its footing. It increased its net revenue last year to $7.9 billion, up from $6.5 billion the year before; and its net income rose to $1.1 billion from a loss of $10.3 billion. Currently, Ally has more than $170 billion in assets and operates in 37 countries (meaning if Detroit doesn't work out for you, you could always relocate to China, Brazil, Mexico, the U.K., or one of many other U.S. cities). In addition to its core business of providing automotive loans, leasing, and insurance services, Ally operates a well known online bank and residential mortgage bank. Thus, openings at the firm include everything from mortgage bankers to credit analysts, and accountants to financial analysts. All job openings can be found on Ally's careers website.

DIY Rock City

If tipping your hat and saying Yowza boss! is not your thing, but answering to yourself is, then Detroit might be the perfect place to take your financial know-how and start your own business. Given that Detroit is in need of new residents (and thus new businesses to lure those new residents), the city is ripe for anyone to flex their entrepreneurial spirit -- a spirit which is already alive and well in Detroit. To that end, check out this extremely inspiring three-part video series called "Detroit Lives" in which Jacka$$'s Johnny Knoxville cruises the 313 (in a vintage convertible Cadiliac), meeting business owners and entrepreneurs currently thriving and driving change in Detroit.

(WSJ: Detroit Population Crashes)