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Three months on and recruitment in Tokyo is still slow

It’s been close to three months since the March 11 disaster in Japan. Much has happened since then, so we thought it timely to take stock of the country’s recruitment market in financial services.

Recruiters are unanimous in declaring that new hiring has slowed down post-crisis as firms grapple with the double whammy of the disaster and lower-than-expected Q1 earnings in Japanese firms.

John McCrohon, director of financial services, Robert Walters Japan, describes the drop as “significant” across all jobs. Support functions like product control, operations and human resources saw the largest slow down in hiring.

Similarly, there has been a reduction in recruitment for firms dealing with real estate investment and financing because deal executions have been delayed, says Martin Eastgate, senior consultant, CDS K.K. “Hiring in January and February this year had picked up from the year before but much of this has either been frozen or slowed down since March 11.”

The focus now is on replacement rather than growth. McCrohon says: “While there is a smattering of new hires across different companies; there are no companies that are particularly active in terms of new hires.”

Another recruiter, who declined to be named, says RBS, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, UBS (especially in wealth management), Tokyo Star Bank and J.P. Morgan are recruiting.

Unhappy and nowhere to go

Even if bankers are unhappy with their bonuses (Nomura’s top bankers for instance had their bonuses slashed by 95 per cent), their options for moving onto greener pastures are restricted. The crisis has stymied post-bonus moves. There has been considerably less movement as candidates realised they would not have fared much better even if they moved to another firm.

Eastgate says: “Other options in the market are still relatively limited so candidates are more inclined to be conservative and wait with their current firms unless they feel their division is about to experience cuts.”

A crystal ball prediction and the expat banker’s fate

Recruiters say recovery on the financial services jobs front is still awhile away. A pick up is anticipated only in Q4 or early next year. This, however, depends on the global economic climate and earnings of the preceding quarter.

Recruiters gave mixed views on the fate of the expat banker. McCrohon has seen the bulk of expat bankers’ return to Tokyo, with minimal relocation to Hong Kong and Singapore.

Eastgate knows of foreign bankers, nearing the end of their posting, return prematurely to their home countries. This is in line with the steady stream of talent that he’s seen move from Tokyo to Hong Kong and Singapore in the last 18 months.

That said, he adds that there has been a fresh crop of professionals outside of Japan looking to take over these departing bankers. The success of these candidates ultimately depend on whether firms want to maintain their headcount in Tokyo or not.

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