Q4 was a mixed quarter, with concerns about the potential recession in 2023 becoming evident from the recruitment done by a range of firms. October was a slow month, as firms were determining their key hires that needed to be completed before the end of the calendar year, leading to a very busy November in terms of new jobs coming out. Following this, December saw the annual difficulty of several key decision-makers being off as we entered the Festive season. This led to roles dragging on throughout the month and even pushed into the New Year, as it became difficult to organise interviews with different members being off at different times. Companies that were successful in this time with their hiring, as is often the case, were those that managed to complete their processes as quickly as possible. This was achieved by organising multiple interviews on the same day or by cutting out previously planned interviews that were not essential, as examples. It is still the case that it’s a candidate-driven market and strong candidates tend to be in 2 or 3 processes at once, and as the roles are often very similar, it often comes down to who offers first that determines who gets the candidate.
Q4 was quieter than the Quarters that preceded it, and this can arguably be seen as firms taking a bit of a breather, to reassess following a manic 18 months of hire. As firms across the board have had a strong couple of years, they’ve had very aggressive hiring plans leading to inflated wages, allowing candidates to regularly secure 20-25% pay rises for external moves (compared to the normal 10-15% they can usually expect). However, the fear of recession looming, combined with the previous over-expenditure to eliminate staff shortages, has led to a large number of redundancies. This is notably seen in the back and middle office. A further contributing factor to this is the successful completion of a range of automation projects carried out by firms. As teams started to grow previously, firms opted to streamline their processes to help manage the increased workload. This has put them in a position whereby, they can alleviate some pressure on the budget via redundancies, as they can more effectively manage their workload with reduced staff.
An area which is always in short supply but also saw an increase in demand in the last quarter, is the Client Services space, especially for candidates with alternatives investments experience. As this area continues to grow, firms need more candidates with relevant alternative market experience to deal with the increased volume. Unfortunately, as this is a relatively new area, there are very few candidates that have this skill set. This has led to several occasions in which firms have had to decide whether to pay over the odds for candidates with relevant product experience or take a cheaper, more junior alternative and train them.
FX-focused roles have continued to be prevalent in the market. Similar to Q3, this is to be expected given the various changes in interest rates and extremely high inflation globally. Previously, candidates with specific FX experience could demand higher wages, especially in the 3-5 year bracket, as this had largely been offshored and candidates in this space were in short supply. To resolve this issue, clients have opted for candidates with different product experience or more senior contractors, that can come in and hit the ground running.
For Q1, one can expect accelerated recruitment initially at least, as processes are completed that are carried over from the end of Q4. Following a range of redundancies, it’s often the case that teams overcompensate and therefore hire temps to help with the workload whilst they get a feel for the market and decide whether or not to commit to a permanent hire or not. This isn’t only the case in this specific instance, but more generally in times of recession. Contractors represent a safer option as depending on how the market performs, it’s easier to extend their contract/convert them to permanent, or cut the contract short if the work isn’t there.
In terms of roles, we’re again approaching asset servicing season. Historically, companies that manage this best, move sooner rather than later. As this is an area most firms will need to hire in, the best talent is often secured early, so the later firms leave it, the more difficulty they have in hiring strong candidates.