2020 began with a number of challenges for both financial services and the wider economy and we continue to live in surreal times. Financial markets, banking and capital markets firms were immediately impacted by the pandemic as yields, oil and stocks and equity prices have fallen. We have seen however that the Government and firms around the globe are taking actions in hopes of keeping the negative effects to the minimum – firms have implemented contingency and business continuity plans, implemented working from home and designed rotational shifts for their employees.
In our 2019 Q4 market commentary we concluded that Q1 would start somewhat slowly due to IR35 changes, Year End and bonus season, but would pick up mid-quarter with replacement as well as new hires. It is undeniable that COVID-19 has had a short-term impact on recruitment. A number of our clients have put a pause on non-critical hires for the time being, with only urgent headcounts going ahead. Within the Projects & Change space specifically we have noted that strategic or transformation initiatives have not been the main focus during the first quarter, but the regulated-project roles have continued to be still in demand.
One other important change for the contract market has been the IR35 deferral – delaying IR35 reform for 12 more months has already been a positive solution for a few of our clients who have had to pause their permanent recruitment and have now been able to attract the best talent on a contract basis for the interim.
On the candidate side the market is looking still very busy, with candidates still expressing interest in new opportunities and being open to engage in conversations about a potential move. This is a positive for the clients that are currently hiring or being proactive, as they can benefit from less competition and ensure that they attract the top talent.
As we live in an era of digital disruption and increased regulation, it was expected that digital and regulatory focused positions were to remain amongst the few hotspots in hiring.
High up on the agenda for our banking clients has been the LIBOR transition programme, which is a very significant and possibly the biggest programme that some of our clients will have to undertake – this has led to a good amount of headcounts being released within the BA and PM space.
Similar to the previous couple of quarters, Q1 has seen a good number of roles within Digital Transformation, with specific focus on customer-centric initiatives. Skillset in reengineering, process improvement, lean Six Sigma, operating models or FO OMS systems are just a few notable requirements when it came to hiring over the course of this quarter.
Especially in the current environment, we have seen an increasing number of clients financing technology initiatives, as tech is no longer a nice to have but a necessity. Both buy-side and sell-side institutions have continued to invest in their operational process development and improvement initiatives as well as structural changes projects, which has resulted in demand for Business Analysts and Project Managers for both temp and permanent requirements.
Another area worth mentioning is the finance transformation space, where we have started seeing demand for BAs and PMs to work on various optimisation of finance processes, with view to transform traditional processes and meet the accounting and reporting standards.
With every adversity comes an opportunity and there are still a lot of positives to take on, such as the Government’s decision to defer the IR35 until April 2021 – following this, a large number of our clients have decided to continue engaging with PSCs and allow contractors to use Limited Companies, gaining competitor advantage over other institutions such as he large Investments banks which have decided to carry on with the implementation of IR35 reform.
Overall, IR35 delay has had a good impact on the contractor market and within Projects specifically, as it appears that there is still demand for interim hires within the BA and PM space to work on various programmes.
The future of the financial market is unpredictable particularly in the situation surrounding COVID-19, which seems to be rapidly evolving day by day. However, considering the plans that our clients have for the years ahead we are remaining positive about the Projects & Change market.
Also, we would expect that recruitment will be picking up slightly in the coming quarter having seen that majority of firms have now adapted to the home-working style and we have seen that the recruitment and onboarding process can be done on a remote basis.
For the short-term, we are expecting to see a number of opportunities within the customer servicing space with a focus on the digital strategies and operating models.
Long term, as we have also mentioned in our previously published market commentary, more and more clients will be putting the ESG topic high up on their agenda – ESG and sustainable investing will be key trends for the new decade, and as this market is clearly maturing day by day clients will require to design more complex strategies for their portfolios but also build better infrastructure which will see an increase in hiring across multiple functions within ESG.
For more information about the market or current opportunities please contact one of our Consultants.