Market Overview


After what was an extremely busy and successful year across the Finance, Tax & Audit markets, there was no slowing down in Q4. It was in fact our busiest quarter, with the team having a record quarter yet again! At the start of Q4, we welcomed Simon Taylor to the business who moving forward will be specialising in Banking, Insurance & Fintech whilst Joel Palmer and Luke Adams will be fully focused on our buy-side client base.


How could Q4 possibly, be busier than the previous three quarters? With the Christmas period then bonus season approaching, we usually see the permanent market slow down towards mid-end of Q4, but this certainly was not the case this year. As per the rest of the year, our client base continued to show confidence and ambition to hire following a slower market in 2021. There are multiple reasons for this but one factor worth noting is the increased time taken to recruit roles due to a candidate led market. The market became more candidate driven as the year went on, with vast numbers of roles and not enough active candidates. This was a trend seen across all areas and here at Bruin, we worked closely with our client base to find sensible solutions where more often than not there was a successful conclusion. This lead to new roles being released all the way up until mid-December, with a large number of them running into 2022. On the contrary, with video interviewing and firms conscious of losing out on candidates, when there are strong candidates in the mix, we are finding clients are more inclined to move quickly. Those who did not often missed out on their top candidates.


European based alternative Asset Managers in general had a great year, with Europe now holding around a quarter of the worlds alternative assets industry. Private Equity & Venture Capital firms are doing extremely well, as is Infrastructure and we continue to work with more and more clients in this space. Naturally, this growth produces a sustained volume of new roles in London, with positions within the fund finance space the most common. We have seen these roles at all levels throughout the year, but during Q4 the market was flooded with newly qualified vacancies. This follows a large number of senior Finance hires into alternative houses across the last couple of years, as a lot of those individuals are building out teams, most commonly in high performing mid-market houses. Real Estate continues to be a high-volume area across fund finance at all levels, as well as direct lending / private credit.


Role Profiles:


Last quarter we saw consistent demand for Internal Audit professionals across front office and corporate functions. These roles vary in seniority, from newly qualified candidates right up to director level. The candidate market was stronger for the latter whereas we found the more junior roles, up to manager level, were more challenging to source. This follows a similar trend from previous quarters and is something a number of our clients are trying to address, as they want to attract more newly qualified individuals, particularly females, into Internal Audit. For newly qualified profiles, much of the candidate pool exists in the large accountancy practices, with candidates often coming from an external audit or risk consulting background. The challenge is that the former, often prefer to move into finance focused roles rather than internal audit, and those from risk consulting backgrounds would rather utilise their knowledge in a risk related function. We are continuing to work with our clients to ensure these roles are as appealing as possible at this level. A noticeable way in which some Internal Audit teams have been doing this, is by emphasising internal progression and mobility into the business lines these teams are auditing.


The fund finance market is usually buoyant and this quarter has been no different. Such roles range from fund administration, to pure fund accounting, to very commercial Fund Finance roles. A very common question candidates at all levels tend to have is around how commercial and involved with the business the responsibilities are. On the alternative side, roles often have more exposure at asset level on transactions etc. We find candidates from junior-mid level are much more likely to apply for a role when they are confident these elements are a considerable part of the role. In regards to the more administrative positions, there has been an increase in demand for candidates with knowledge of mutual funds who understand the daily NAV process. A good source of talent for these roles can be custodians or third-party fund administrators, sometimes outside of London, so the move into London based asset managers is often an attractive one.


Many of the more commercial positions on offer come from the mid-market alternative asset management sector, as this continues to be a high growth area. This is following a trend that has been ever-present in 2021, as alternative houses continue to increase finance headcount to support growth. Lots of these firms are demanding candidates with prior knowledge of private equity, private debt, real estate and infrastructure assets as these continue to be growth areas. Our clients are hiring from newly qualified level up to director level, however what persists to be the most difficult profile to attract, is the 3-5 years PQE candidates around manager level, with relevant experience in the before mentioned asset classes. This could be attributed to firms’ ability to retain talent by offering strong growth opportunities and good compensation packages. Therefore some clients are having to pay a premium to attract talent at this level. We have also seen a number of director hires across the alternative space as support from the top upwards is needed to maintain this growth.


As always during Q4, there continued to be a huge demand for newly qualified candidates, as firms compete for ACA graduates who qualify in September time. Additionally, being a candidate driven market across 2021, competition this year was higher during Q4 as many candidates already had roles lined up prior to qualification. We saw an increased number of newly qualified candidates moving for £60,000 whilst the market is usually stable around £55,000. The roles which incorporated more commercial / value add / asset exposure, were usually more attractive to this talent pool. Another challenge is that Big Four firms seem to be working harder to retain strong talent, with large numbers of external audit candidates being offered roles in advisory/TS/deals teams. This further increases the competition at this level, as well as increases expectations for the more value-add / commercial elements mentioned above.


During Q4 we saw a high demand for solid junior Financial accountants who come from a financial services background, capable of handling large volumes and a fast-paced environment. Historically, firms have targeted individuals from external audit teams with relevant client exposure, however, a large proportion of these individuals have a desire to move into a more commercial role and avoid anything too reporting focused. Due to the candidate driven market we find ourselves in, this has become even more of a challenge as individuals, who might have in previous years been open to reporting roles, are being approached with such a broad spectrum of roles with more commercial aspects that they are leaning towards those. Therefore, clients are generally more open to individuals coming from varying backgrounds, e.g. non-FS client bases in practice.


We continued to see a number of growing alternatives houses looking to hire newly-created Tax positions, in order to have someone juggling external providers during continued growth. Often these roles require knowledge in a particular asset class in order to account for transactions. The roles with larger compliance & reporting elements are generally harder to get large shortlists of candidates interested. Our clients who have had most success when hiring Tax professionals are the growing alternative houses who can offer a heavy transactional element. More often than not on these searches, clients will target individuals coming from practice. The most successful level has been Senior Manager – Director (£80k+) as Senior Managers from practice firms seem to be the most open to a move. Roles from newly-qualified up to Manager level (£55k – £75k) tend to have smaller candidate pools and the more transactional roles will be preferred.




January, for many, brings with it year-end processes that often take priority over hiring. However, if 2021 is anything to go by, we expect to continue seeing a large volume of roles across all areas especially across alternatives. This can be a challenge in Q1 because candidates are often very busy themselves, so not necessarily thinking about a move. However, New Year is a time for many to reflect on their current situation, which lessens the effect. Further to this, bonus season is on our doorstep and with it comes reason for individuals to explore the market.