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From Wall Street to Franchisee More than 500,000 workers have left the financial sector since the recession began. Many of them became franchisees.

By Jason Daley

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When Eric Diaz pulls up in his Aussie Pet Mobile grooming van, it's hard to envision him in a suit and tie. He's relaxed while combing out an Afghan or trimming up a Shih Tzu, wearing a company pullover and a prominent gold Yankees necklace, something that never made it out of his undershirt at his old job. A little over two years ago, Diaz was a different type of pinstripes man, traveling the world building customer service applications for Wall Street behemoth Merrill Lynch. But just months before America began Googling credit default swaps and underwater mortgages, Diaz sensed something in the water, and took a buyout. He traveled for a year, and when he returned home, he decided to do something many "sophisticated investors" on Wall Street might thumb their noses at--he bought a pet grooming franchise in Hudson County, N.J.

"My job at Merrill Lynch was very, very rewarding financially and personally," he says. "I did it for 20 years. But so far, I love dealing with doggies equally."

Diaz isn't alone in shifting gears so dramatically. Since the Great Recession began in December 2007, an estimated 550,000 workers have left or been booted from the financial sector in the United States, with 200,000 of those in New York City alone.