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An interview with Robert Walters, chief executive of Robert Walters

Rob  Walters

What will 2012 hold for financial services hiring? Is RBS a precursor for disaster elsewhere? Will hiring in Asia really go the way of hiring in Europe? We asked Robert Walters, chief executive of the eponymous recruitment firm. This is what he said:

Q: Is 2012 going to be a bad year for financial services hiring?

Robert: You’d think I was bonkers if I said anything other than yes – it’s going to be bad. If you look at the news reports, it’s still all doom and gloom and the problems in the Eurozone have a way to run. However, there will be a recovery. We are already seeing green shoots in the US. Personally, I don’t think we’re in for Armageddon. However, I do think that from a jobs point of view, the recovery could be a while: recruitment is all about confidence and we don’t have that yet.

Q: Do you think candidates’ unwillingness to move is going to be an issue this year?

Robert: Yes. 2012 will be more of the same. There are an awful lot of people working in financial services who are unhappy with their jobs but who are not going to risk moving. It’s a feature you find in every downturn and a trend we’ve seen a lot before. However, when recovery comes, it comes very quickly: you have an awful lot of people who are keen to change their jobs all at once. The upturn is dramatic.

Q: When do you think that upturn will happen?

Robert: My personal bet, if I were a gambling man -which I’m not – would be 2013. By 2013 we will have been in a downturn for four or five years. People will only put up with things for so long before they start moving. Once that happens, replacement hires become immediately necessary. Banks have cut to the bone. If your credit control or compliance officer leaves, you have to hire someone to replace them.

Banks tend to hire people who are currently working rather than the unemployed. This creates a hole in another organization that also needs to be filled as that organisation too has cut back to the bone – you get a snowball effect.

Q: What’s happening in Asia? Suddenly it seems banks are making a lot of redundancies there – is that making it harder for people from Europe or the US to find new jobs in Hong Kong or Singapore?

Robert: Asia is still more buoyant than other parts of the world. However, financial services is a global industry and as such it’s affected globally. Nevertheless, subject to various work permit and immigration conditions – and providing you have the right skills and speak the right languages –  it is probably still easier to get a job in Asia than in Europe or the US now.

Q: Robert Walters is growing in Indonesia and Brazil, are you expecting a lot of financial services hiring there?

Robert: I suspect there will be more jobs in Indonesia. Financial services recruitment goes hand in hand with growth in general and activity there is pretty vibrant.

With regards to Brazil, you might be able to find work there if you can speak Portuguese – otherwise you’ll struggle. The idea that you can move country and find a job depends upon issues such as your seniority: if you’re a junior candidate and you have the right skills, migrating can be easier.

Q: Do you think London will remain an important financial services centre in future?

Robert: I hope so. If they introduce a Tobin Tax in the eurozone, the UK will do very well out of it. Providing that tax doesn’t affect us, London will continue to flourish.

Q: Do you see growth potential for financial services recruiters in France and Germany?

Robert: Yes. There are two or three very mature markets for recruitment in the world – the UK, Australia and the US. In those markets, people use a lot of recruiters. In France and Germany, it’s been more common for organisations to recruit people directly. There’s an awful lot of growth to be had from them using someone like us, even if the number of jobs remains the same.

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