In the Finance and Accounting sector we have seen the market move at a steady pace, especially as demand in some areas continued to grow at a similar rate as in the previous quarter. Whereas there was a strong demand in areas such as Internal Audit and Financial Planning and Analysis, some functions experienced a reduction in hiring, particularly within Product Control and Valuations. As Brexit draws closer, its influence on the Finance and Accounting market cannot be ignored. Many firms implemented their strategies from a domiciling perspective and have begun to hire more proactively in European jurisdictions to service that workload.
In the Contract space this has led to a slowdown in the progression of roles, as a number of positions have been put on hold or cancelled due to budget constraints. Therefore, it can be concluded that firms who continue their recruitment through this ambiguous period will have the pick of the candidate pool which continues to remain active. Additionally, there has been an increase in activity from US firms in comparison to their EU counterparts. This could be attributed to the current political climate, with EU firms taking a cautious approach to their headcount until there is more certainty.
Within Financial Services, we have a seen a shift with Investment Managers being slightly more active in the market in comparison to our Investment Banking clients. The strongest pay rewards, when standardised across levels, have been seen in the boutique firms as is often the case – the ones that have performed well have remunerated their staff strongly and this continues to be an area of interest for compensation focused job seekers.
The opening quarter of 2019 saw a range of roles being released at the mid to senior levels within both Banking and Asset Management as firms were looking to bolster their ranks.
By comparison to Q4, Temporary recruitment has experienced growth in a number of areas, for both business as usual and Project based roles. The most prominent recruitment activity has been within the Regulatory Reporting sphere, particularly within the banking sector. Successful candidates possessed solid backgrounds in either Liquidity Reporting or Capital Reporting, as well as a combination of regulatory knowledge and experience working with specific software. For Project roles, our clients sought candidates that could demonstrate a track record of improving and automating processes using their technical skills as well as previous Business Analysis experience in similar functions. We believe that demand for these positions is likely to be a reflection of the many changes that Brexit will bring to the regulatory reporting processes.
A persistent requirement that has once again continued into Q1 from last years Q4 is the necessity for newly qualified accountants from Big Four backgrounds. Investment banks have prioritised this type of profile, however the pool of candidates remains scarce, especially within the Contract space, thus leading to candidates being more selective. Within the Temp sphere, we have seen a number of candidates come from Australia and New Zealand on Tier 5 Visas, but the influx was still not sufficient to satisfy the demand that exists in the current contract market. In order to attract more candidates of this calibre, firms generally offered a premium on top of their standard rates or offered hybrid roles that had a mixture of Financial Accounting as well as commercial elements.
Another significant trend that we observed is that our clients in both Asset Management and Investment Banking tended to opt for Fixed Term Contracts as opposed to Day Rate assignments. This is likely to be a consequence of the new IR35 proposals that continue to cause insecurity for many contractors. Although FTCs are capable of providing many added benefits which can be attractive to candidates, they do not offer the same financial package that many seasoned contractors are used to. Consequently, many FTCs are vacant for longer as candidates are generally unwilling to reduce their financial expectations. In the current market climate, firms acting swifter with their processes benefited from being able to secure the best candidates in shorter time frames.
In the permanent recruitment market, there has been an increase in the number of roles released by our Asset Management clients, ranging from Financial Accounting positions focusing on reporting functions, to Senior Finance Manager roles with a strong commercial outlook. Within Investment Banking, hiring remained strong, but the feeling is that most firms did the majority of their additions in Q4 2018, with the roles being released in Q1 predominantly being replacement hires.
In both Asset Management and Investment Banking we observed an increase in FP&A and Business Partnering roles ranging from £65-100K focusing on Revenue, which is quite a contrast to the FP&A roles that were being released in 2018 Q4, the majority of which were Cost focused.
Another trend that we observed is that firms intended to expand their Internal Audit function. The majority of roles that have been released within Internal Audit have been in the £65-90K range, looking for junior to mid level VP’s to join their ranks and prepare for the changing regulatory environment.
An issue observed from larger clients is the use of outdated salary expectations – offering salaries and rates that are no longer competitive through using the same metrics from when the role was last recruited circa 2+ years ago, or using the salary of an internal promoted candidate that may also be under market rate due to “loyalty penalties”.
Overall in Q1 we have seen hiring continue to be strong in uncertain times, with clients who offered interesting and challenging roles, whilst being flexible on salary negotiations securing the best candidates.
In Q2 we are expecting the market to pick up significantly with bonuses having been paid out and the political uncertainty drawing to their inevitable end. It is no secret that a number of firms did not pay out the bonuses they expected and candidates will be expressing their disappointment by seeking new opportunities and testing the market. We expect Investment Banks to feel the majority of the changes that will come as a consequence of this, meaning there will a lot of movement in that space.
Another area we expect to see an increase in movement is Financial Services firms looking to move candidates from London to their European hubs, predominantly in senior positions. This will continue the trend we saw towards the end of 2018.
As a natural result, we foresee that the Contract market will remain very active throughout Q2 as firms will be aiming to keep flexibility in relation to their headcount.