The second quarter of 2021 can be described as a period of recovery. The recruitment market bounced back as the financial services industry is slowly recovering from 2020 and the uncertainty of the beginning of 2021. Salespeople are back on the road and potential clients are more willing to have face to face meeting in a safe environments, and some marketing professionals are now going back to the office on a voluntary basis. The recruitment industry has been impacted with a number of our clients hiring due to a lot of talent relocating outside the UK, and the vast majority of firms have recovered from the impact that Covid had.
The industry was marked by several important and interesting mergers which have been ongoing into Q2 of this year. Aon and Willis Towers who struck a $30bn deal last year hoping to create the world’s biggest commercial insurance broker hit a potential stumbling block recently. There may be a regulatory veto to prevent the powerhouse insurance firm from getting off the ground. And on the asset management side, Allianz and Pimco have joined their effort to buy asset management firms with Allianz’s total third-party assets under management raising to about €1.8 trillion after the first quarter of 2021. As well as the Columbia Threadneedle acquisition of BMO Global Asset Management, and several well reported M&As in recent years, this could be in an attempt to squeeze the boutique houses out of the market and limit competition.
Flexible working became a consideration just as important as compensation to some job seekers in Q2, as now people are expecting large parts of the financial services industry to continue to operate productively whilst working remotely. Some asset managers want their employees to go back full time to the office which has led to several resignations and in some extreme cases, for some 50% of offers for live vacancies rejected because they are not offering a flexible working policy.
We noticed a constant request as well for new talent with European languages skills, with 30% of our roles now having this requirement. This has proven to be an exciting but challenging area to recruit for as some candidates with this experience decided to exit the UK market due to Brexit and COVID restrictions.
Movers and Shakers
There have been several senior moves in the asset management market in Q2 of 2021. To start with the marketing appointments, in May Frank Maret moved to First Sentier investors as the Head of Marketing EMEA & USA. Frank previously held the position of Head of Global Marketing and Brand for Unigestion.
After a brief 6 month stint at Aviva Investors as ESG marketing lead, Silvia Pentassuglia has recently taken up position as Head of International Marketing with M&G Investments, also taking a lead on the firm’s ESG marketing proposition.
On the distribution side, Lombard Odier has also recently acquired Selina Tyler as head of UK Wholesale in June of this year, a role she previously held at Mirabaud Asset Management. Selina will be responsible for driving Lombard Odier’s UK wholesale franchise and further promote their “TargetNetZero” strategies.
In June, Candriam appointed David Morley as Head of UK Distribution as a replacement for Derek Brander. Mr Morley, who previously was Director of Business Development at Eaton Vance who have recently been acquired by Morgan Stanley Investment Management, will now be responsible for leading the UK distribution business across the institutional, wholesale and retail markets.
Steven Gardner has been appointed as Head of Institutional Clients for Berenberg Wealth and Asset Management UK this June. Mr Gardner previously worked as Institutional Relationship Director with Jupiter Asset Management and looks to develop Berenberg’s sustainable investment initiatives with institutional investors.
There have been some significant trends throughout the second quarter of 2021, most of which can be directly associated with COVID-19 and the new way of working. The first of these is the much anticipated return of events hiring. Prior to March 2020, several investment firms were looking to expand their events team, particularly with candidates that spoke European languages; whilst the language requirements are not as pressing currently, there has been a push to get onboard both permanent and temporary staff to manage and lead physical and virtual events for the reminder of the year.
The continuation of specialised digital marketers has also continued in Q2. Moving away from the “generalist” model, several asset managers and financial institutions are now employing digital experts focused on areas such as website management, user experience and user interface design and social media. This has led to significant investment in both personnel and digital tools within financial services organisations.
A trend that has also developed over the past 3 months, as well as at the end of 2020, was the need for more communications professionals. This spanned both internal and external comms, allowing for greater PR and media relations opportunities as well as ensuring the continuation of vital employee engagement and messaging whilst the majority of businesses still work remotely/flexibly. We expect this trend to continue throughout the course of the year.
As we push further into 2021 and increase the distance between the start of the pandemic and today, we can expect the sharp recovery of the financial services industry to continue. The clients that we have been speaking to have started to communicate return to work plans with their employees and for the most part these are being received positively. However we would predict that there will be candidates who actively seek out new opportunities and companies who offer more competitive work/life balances and flexible working arrangements.
Q3 will also bring with it a new focus of hiring for many clients. Whilst communications and digital have been focuses for the past 6-9 months, as well as the return of events recruitment, we would also expect a return of business development and distribution hiring. Now that clients will be back in their offices and face to face meetings becoming more commonplace, a number of asset managers will look to capitalise on this by reigniting the push for sales professionals that we saw in Q3 of 2020.