Q2 of 2016 began positively in the world of Accounting and Finance, across both the buy and sell-side. On the candidate side, due to the majority of bonuses having been paid, we witnessed a significant increase in both the number and quality of candidates on the market. Most notably, the number of newly qualified ACA candidates saw a sharp increase, with many people having completed their exams and looking for a move into industry. Concurrently a number of Banks and Asset Managers ramped up hiring across a number of business lines.
Top tier banks for the most part had ended the hiring freezes in the Finance area and were looking to take advantage of the increase in talent within the market. Asset Managers and Hedge Funds also increased their levels of recruitment, particularly at the junior level, as they looked to either expand their teams or replace people who had moved to other firms. Whilst positive in comparison to Q1, volumes overall were still down by a fair margin when compared to Q2 of 2015. This in large part would have been heavily influenced by the continuing focus on offshoring, as alluded to in the Q1 commentary, with Finance being one of the heaviest hit areas within Financial Services.
As the quarter wore on, roles began to decrease in volume, attributed largely to the looming referendum on the future of Britain in the EU. As has been well publicised, the UK voted to leave the EU, against most predictions across the industry. Whilst very early in the day, there have already been some worrying signals from banks on constrained hiring due to high levels of uncertainty in the market. But there have been some brighter notes, with a few banks claiming that Brexit will not have a significant impact upon their operations or strategy for the short to medium term.
On the contracting side, we saw varying levels of demand throughout Q2, across all areas of Financial Services. We had expected to see levels of hiring increase as we moved through the 3 month period at a higher rate than was in fact experienced. There is currently a surplus of contractors looking to move into new positions, most noticeably in Investment Banking. Due to the number of strong junior candidates in the market (1-3 years PQE), a lot of clients are asking for a broader set of skills as a means of differentiating between candidates.
There has been a continued emphasis on candidates in the contract market being asked to demonstrate when they may have worked on projects in the past. Many firms are now employing contractors who have the ability to work in a BAU line function whilst also being able to work on ad hoc projects taking place in the firm, as and when they are required
One particular area that has seen significant growth, and is heavily forecast to be the future of several facets of Financial Services, has been Fintech. There has been a large increase in the number of Fintech Start-ups over the past 6-12 months, with many people seeing technology as the answer. This poses a serious threat to larger Banks, Asset/Wealth Managers/Hedge Funds, with around 22% of the key Financial Institutions stating their belief that Fintech could result in a high level of business being lost to these types of firms over the next 5 years.
Diversity remains a key focus in hiring across the FS arena, with many institutions championing gender equality, as well as ethnic and societal diversity. BRUIN are heavily committed to helping to achieve this, and continue to provide insight and commentary on the success of these goals through our WIFI report and participation in various initiatives such as the CTI program. Finance in particular is an area that is heavily dominated by men, so this has certainly been something we have been strongly focusing upon over the past few quarters and will continue to push for throughout the rest of the year.
The focus in terms of roles, across both Temporary and Permanent markets, that are being released externally continue along the same vein as in the first quarter, with Structured Product knowledge or a strong Regulatory focus being required for a significant percentage of positions. Notable areas of business have been:
- Internal Audit – With Financial Services continuing to respond to regulatory pressure and switch to a more proactive stance to their Risk and Control environments, recruitment in this part of the business has continued to remain a priority. Whilst the majority of these roles have been within tier 1 Investment Banks, Asset Managers have also been hiring in this area, at both the junior and senior end, from Associate all the way up to Regional Head.
- Financial Control/ Fund Accounting – Several buy-side institutions have released roles spanning across the Financial Control and Fund Accounting spectrum. These roles have been at the entry level for the most part, with a fair portion being attributed to growth within the business, but there were a few more senior positions within this area at the Team Lead level. Sought after experience in these areas was for recently qualified accountants who had a Financial Services focus, with 1-4 years’ PQE, ideally within a role that included exposure to complex Fund structures.
Valuations – As in Q1, several top tier IBs continued to focus on increasing their IPV teams, across all Asset Classes. With candidates in these areas, banks were open to considering people from other business lines, such a Product Control or Business Control, so long as they could express the aptitude to work in a highly analytical role.
The above represent the majority of positions released in the past 3 months; however we have also seen roles across Exotic Trade Review, Structured Product Control, Financial Planning and Analysis and Management Accounting. These roles in the large part have been replacement headcount rather than growth hires.
As mentioned above, the amount of candidates on the market increased by a fair number. Most people spoken with stated their reasons as being to take advantage of the time of year, with Q2 historically being the busiest time of year, however the number of active candidates was in part exacerbated by market volatility that came as part of the impending vote on ‘Brexit’. Several candidates expressed concern over long term job stability, and wanted to get a jump on the market to secure a new position before the vote happened. Despite the expectation that the country would vote remain, some people were still conscious of the effect a leave vote would have on their career and wanted to have some form of contingency in place.
The next 3 months, and more largely the next couple of years, will be a particularly difficult market to give any specific predictions upon. With the level of uncertainly and volatility across all areas, stances are subject to change at very short notice. At the time of writing, most institutions are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to recruitment, and for now are maintaining their current hiring strategies until a clearer picture can be seen. On a positive note, very few banks have applied restrictions on recruitment so far and for the larger portion it remains ‘business as usual’.
Depending upon a number of factors, including what (if any) accommodations are reached in respect to free trade and movement of peoples, pass-porting, and indeed the legality of invoking Article 50 in the first place, there is likely to be significant impact on the finance sector, and more broadly the UK economy. But whilst the result itself was unexpected, most firms had robust contingencies in the event of a ‘Leave’ vote. By comparison to the crisis in 2008, Banks and Asset Managers are much better placed to deal with the ramifications of the vote, as evidenced by the lack of significant changes to most growth/hiring strategies. More will come to light on this over the coming weeks and months.
On the contract and temporary recruitment side, some firms have advised that there will be an increase in fixed term contracts and day rate contracts. The majority of contracts so far have been replacement hires but there is talk that this should change pending sign off.
The referendum not-withstanding, historically summer has always been a quiet time on the recruitment calendar, with the summer holidays having an impact on the availability of both candidates and hiring managers for interviews. It isn’t until the end of August/ start of September that we start to see roles begin to increase in volume.
Overall, Q3 and most likely the rest of the year will be a turbulent time in Finance. Firms will be very reactive to any shifts in the market, and recruitment is likely to be an area that is placed under heavy scrutiny.