The first quarter of the year is traditionally the quietest from a recruitment perspective, and 2019 has been no different. Three key factors have influenced this to an even greater extent this year.
Firstly, it is impossible to escape the impact that political uncertainty has had on Financial Services. The date 29th March 2019 has been at the forefront of people’s minds, and has had a huge influence on decision making and strategy of firms during the first part of this year. Similarly, candidates are taking a less proactive approach to their job search with more of a self-preservative attitude to their careers in some, but clearly not all cases.
Secondly,, the annual review and bonus cycle has a huge impact on candidates and clients alike with many adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach to their search. However, with uncertainty in the market outlined above, candidates in the compliance space have not necessarily reached the bonus levels they have in previous years and therefore there has been movement, particularly at the mid-senior level in the market where good opportunities have arisen.
And finally, Investment Banks have had a massive shift in the past couple of years when it comes to recruitment, by transitioning more operational compliance roles to lower cost jurisdictions, as well as putting greater emphasis on hiring talent directly themselves.
However, the landscape isn’t as bleak as the above would suggest. Whilst firms do continue to focus on hiring directly, our ability to deliver on technical roles continues to differentiate BRUIN Financial from our competitors. Our expertise and technical knowledge of the compliance space enables us to deliver on niche and difficult to fill hires. As a result we are working exclusively and from a retained perspective with a number of our clients on compliance hires.
Our ability to service the European market has resulted in a diversification of our delivery. A large proportion of our clients are growing their European hubs with contingency planning in mind. Over the course of Q1 we have been particularly busy in Luxembourg, Dublin, Paris, Madrid & Frankfurt and we expect to see this continue throughout the year where firms become less ‘London-centric’.
In addition, March has given us plenty of reason to be positive going into Q2. On average March demonstrated a 19% increased in job flow in comparison to what we witnessed in January and February, and the market already feels increasingly buoyant. This will continue as key regulations such as SMCR, GDPR & Brexit Programmes remain at the forefront of our clients focus from a compliance perspective.
Whilst hiring into Investment Banks has reduced on the whole in London over the past few months, there
remains high demand for technically strong SMEs, and this is specifically the case within Compliance Advisory. There is particularly high demand for candidates with pure FICC or Equities Advisory experience and candidates are being subjected to rigorous interview processes to ensure firms are acquiring technically proficient employees within their advisory functions. This has in turn led to a spike in salaries as clients compete for candidates, and firms are having to be more creative with how they attract the best talent in the market. Whilst sign-on bonuses still exist in niche areas, it is flexible benefits such as the ability to work from home that enables firms to differentiate themselves from the competition in what has traditionally been a market that requires employees to be desk based for long hours every day.
Monitoring has also seen a steady focus across Q1. As has been the case over the past 6 months a lot of Investment Banks have decided to split the monitoring teams across front office. Monitoring candidates who have conducted testing reviews in line with regulations across the front office have been much higher in demand than those who have conducted thematic reviews across the wider business. With a lot of candidates having the right methodology to conduct end to end reviews it is becoming more and more common for candidates to shift from buy-side to sell side and clients who are willing to be more flexible when it comes to background are finding the process of recruiting monitoring candidates a lot smoother.
With many firms embedding new guideline systems (Aladdin in particular) there has been a high demand in candidates who have trade compliance/guideline monitoring experience. This has proven to be one of the most challenging areas to recruit into. In addition, this continues to become an increasingly contract driven market, and therefore finding strong permanent candidates becomes more challenging. Most teams are now split by coding specialists and then a separate team focusing on pre/post trade monitoring, meaning candidates are becoming increasingly specialist. Firms that are willing to be flexible on what systems experience are more likely to secure the best talent.
Over the past few months, we have seen a number of our core clients shifting some of their operations to Luxembourg. Candidates with in-depth experience of launching new funds and approving marketing material within different jurisdictions are in high demand. Language skills are essential as different countries within the EU all have niche regulatory implications impacting the buy-side firms so someone who has an understanding of the languages and laws surrounding this area are highly desired.
The second quarter of the year is traditionally the busiest in the compliance space. Bonuses are paid, reviews undertaken and candidates start to assess their options going forward. Hiring during April/May tends to be a result of attrition as firms look to replace talent they have lost post annual reviews, this is particularly the case in the Investment Banking space. As the quarter rolls on, firms can start executing more strategic hires. Clearly in the Asset Management space there will continue to be hiring onto key projects, SMCR in particular is going to be huge focus especially for those firms that haven’t yet started the implementation process.
However, it is clear that uncertainty will continue, and until there is a resolution regarding the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union things will remain highly unpredictable. What we do know though is that there will still be high demand for candidates with niche skill-sets for technical roles within Financial Services.
Q1 has seen a busy period and the need for experienced contractors in the Compliance space is still high. Asset Managers in particular are busy with SMCR preparations and Mifid II follow ups whilst Investment Banking has been more focussed on business critical hires through Q1.
Political uncertainty has led to some indecision and delay in hiring, particularly when candidates are at offer stage. Coupled with the lowest unemployment figures since the 1974, means clients who move quickly get the best hires. Our top candidates are being courted by multiple firms and usually have more than one offer on the table due to the shortage of experienced available contractors.
Investment Banking – There has been a sharp upturn in Legal, Advisory and Surveillance in the Sell Side market. Partly due to Brexit (Legal) and the FCA conducting thorough audits across the sector. Financial Crime is also more buoyant than Q3 and Q4 last year.
Asset Management – Portfolio Compliance is still the most sought after skill set with system upgrade projects ongoing and overall standards continuing to be high. The SMCR deadline is now less than 9 months away for Asset Managers so project budgets have been approved and contractors are busy. We have also seen a demand for Financial Promotions specialists across the sector.
Challenger Banks – As more of the general populous gravitate away from your traditional high street banks, Challenger Banks with their online and app dominated technology, continue to build their customer base. We have seen a high demand for Financial Crime Juniors (AML and KYC) in the Challenger Bank sector as a result.
We have been increasingly busy recruiting into Continental Europe over the past 12 months. This was to be expected due to the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the United Kingdom’s pending exit from the European Union and the job flow we began to witness in Q4 of 2018. During 2019 we have seen an influx of roles across Central Europe including Luxembourg, Paris, Madrid, Munich and Frankfurt.
The majority of work we have seen has been in Luxembourg. As a great deal of our clients have either bulked out their Compliance teams or completely re-building them as part of their European strategy it has given us a very strong consistent stream of roles. The mandates we are taking on seem to fit into two main categories, AML/KYC focused positions from junior through to senior and Compliance ‘Generalists’ in some of the smaller wealth management firms where candidates are required to understand wider Compliance responsibilities. With the latter, the challenges we are facing is with the limited volume of such candidates who are reluctant to move from the larger houses or looking for significant pay increases.