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Market cools as bankers dream of bonuses

The onset of autumn in Japan can mean only one thing for bankers: it’s time to begin thinking about bonuses. But that is bound to slow down a recruitment market that is only just coming back to life.

“Bankers always start to think about bonuses at this time of year and I don’t think this year is any different from that perspective. It does tend to slow the market down because candidates generally want their bonus guaranteed if they move at this time of year and, particularly in the current environment, guaranteed bonuses are hard to come by,” says David Swan, director of financial services at Robert Walters Japan.

That doesn’t mean that movement will grind to a halt though. David Leithead, managing director Japan at Michael Page International, says while bankers expecting sensible bonuses are unlikely to contemplate changing jobs, not everyone will be reluctant to jump ship.

“If someone already knows, or anticipates, a poor bonus for 2009, they won’t wait around for it if a good opportunity should come up in the meantime; nor will they stay if they are pursued by a new firm that offers to buy out their bonus,” says Leithead.

Tokyo has seen what may be the start of a revival in guaranteed bonuses of late, although they have been restricted to only senior hires or top talent.

Of course, it isn’t just thoughts of bonuses that can cool the recruitment market. Swan says economic uncertainty could also prevent many bankers from changing roles. “There is always the worry that they could move to a new firm that starts downsizing and as a result be last in first out,” he adds.

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