Q1 of 2021 was a very busy quarter for middle office and operations recruitment, this continued the increase in recruitment we saw at the end of the previous year. There is more confidence returning to the job market and to candidates looking to move into new roles after an uncertain year in 2020. Some clients reassessed their teams over the Christmas to New Year period and were looking to move quickly in January to build out the teams in areas they had identified.
A usual element that slowed recruitment however was candidate’s hesitancy to move externally on the build-up to bonus season. Some candidates waited until after bonuses had been paid out before starting their search. In order to secure the top talent therefore, clients were having to be flexible around this period in regards to waiting for bonuses to be paid.
Whilst more recently remote working has not affected recruitment, the news of restrictions being lifted has helped inspire confidence in the market. A notable change however is the increased emphasis around flexible working for candidates going forward. Due to the last year, whilst it’s not the case for everyone, a lot of people have become accustomed to working from home. A consequence of this is that the opportunity to work flexibly is increasingly something that motivates candidates when deciding where to move to. Clients therefore, are having to consider this more so when it comes to offer stages with candidates. There seems to be a split in thought on this, especially around the level of the employee and it is important to get the balance right. In general, at the junior level being in the office and getting more support is beneficial, while more senior candidates are looking for a good balance and more flexible.
The level that has seen the most prominent rise in activity in this quarter is the hiring around the junior level, with a number of client looking to recruit candidates with 1-3 years’ experience looking for a second job. This is likely due to timings around the bonus period, with more movement at a senior level expected after this. Key areas such as Data Management and Regulatory Reporting continued to be busy during this period.
At the junior level, clients looking for 1-3 years of experience in the middle office space were willing to be more flexible on like for like experience as long as candidates had good soft skills and tech knowledge. Due to the high demand for these candidates, they have benefitted from enjoying a large jump in salary on occasion, as clients have had to be flexible on budget in order to fight off competition and achieve the best candidates.
Regulatory reporting continued to gain momentum over Q1. Much like last year, this area continued to expand, especially on the Asset Management side as they look to build out teams. As regulations continue to be implemented, Asset Managers are increasingly keen on having permanent regulatory reporting teams, that focus on the BAU, as opposed to having contractors. For candidates, it has meant a shift from looking for contract opportunities, to focussing on permanent roles. On the other side, this has meant that clients in order to obtain the best candidates, have had to look at people with traditionally contractor backgrounds as opposed to hoping to hire someone with a background in permanent roles. Similar to the previous quarter, management roles are increasingly prevalent, in order to oversee the expanding teams.
Data is another area that continued to be busy in Q1. We saw a lot of roles in the investment data area at a junior level and some at a team lead/SME level to focus around projects. We also saw a lot of hiring in the data governance space looking for experienced candidates. This is another area that Asset Managers are looking to build out teams in as data governance is becoming more and more important to firms.
After a positive start to the year, one can assume that the operations market will continue to benefit from the momentum gained in Q1. In the next quarter we expect more movement at the senior end of the market as usual bonus periods have come to an end. Whilst recruitment has been largely unaffected by COVID restrictions since the market has adapted to remote working, with restrictions continuing to lift there can be optimism that the market will pick up even further.
Whilst office working will return and become an option with some firms looking to start having employees coming back in for a day or two a week in the summer, if companies want to hire the best candidates they will need to get the balance right on flexibility. We have seen firms that are saying that they will return to being in office five days a week with no flexibility lose out on candidates, especially at a more senior level where flexibility due to childcare is important for candidates. As mentioned previously, time in the office with their team is very beneficial to junior candidates to help develop them and share ideas as well as the social and culture benefits of seeing team members face to face. Getting the balance right on flexibility and supporting junior teams members will be an important factor for firms to consider going forward.