Lehman's rain man
The bank is one of many firms that now have a meteorologist-in-chief.
(Fortune Magazine) -- There may not be much talk about vacations at Lehman Brothers these days, but when i-bankers start thinking about tee times and tanning again, VP Dan Guertin could find himself more popular than most of his colleagues. The reason? He's Lehman's chief meteorologist.
No, holiday forecasts aren't the latest banker perk. "People always ask me, 'Why does a bank need a meteorologist?'" says Guertin, the firm's 34-year-old weatherman. Hired in 2007 by the commodities desk, he provides forecasts to the firm's traders and clients who make big bets in this uniquely weather-sensitive area.
In fact, Guertin is just one of a growing number of in-house weather watchers at big companies. The profession's biggest employer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, employs nearly 40% of U.S. meteorologists, but it has been scaling back as computer models reduce the need for staff. Meanwhile, the best-known weather gig - delivering updates and banter on air à la Al Roker - accounts for just 6% of the industry. According to the Department of Labor, most of the job growth through 2016 will come from the private sector.
At Penn State, whose meteorology program is the premier training ground for storm watchers, recent graduates have found work with candymaker Mars, a major buyer of agricultural products like sugar and cocoa beans, and hedge fund Citadel. Also hiring: risk-assessment firms that have sprung up to serve weather-sensitive industries like retailers. "We recognize [the corporate sector] is where the growing numbers of careers are going to be," says department head William Brune.
Banking wasn't an obvious choice for Guertin when he was at Penn State in the mid-1990s. TV beckoned at first, but a stint doing weekend forecasts at a Fox affiliate changed his outlook. On a whim he took a job at an energy trading company; then Lehman (LEH, Fortune 500) came calling.
Now Guertin is the bank's one-man weather desk. Most mornings he arrives at 5:30 A.M. to scan global forecasts, then puts out reports tailored to different commodities. It's news Lehman's traders and clients can use: Last August Guertin spent a weekend tracking Hurricane Dean, a category 5 cyclone that threatened to make landfall in Louisiana or Texas, possibly causing a spike in natural-gas prices. By late Sunday he had put out a report that the hurricane would skirt the U.S. Good information to trade on, it turned out: On Monday natural-gas prices fell 9% as the market caught up to the news. Just one example of why, in stormy economic times, it pays to know which way the wind is blowing.