Where have the novice bankers gone?

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Australia just can't get enough junior corporate financiers.

"Applicants once sweated about their CVs. Now candidates are being swooned over,'' says Michael Markiewicz of Sydney recruiter Carmichael Fisher.

There are five to ten times the number of unfilled positions now than in 2004, says Victoria Biggs at recruiter Jon Michel. "It can take months to fill them: demand keeps rising, competition for applicants is ferocious.''

But don't pack your bags yet: banks want top candidates, and they're not yet so desperate they'll compromise on that. From any 20 applicants, none might be appointed.

For the right one, however, inducements are sweet. There's nothing like zipping your Boxster along Sydney's clifftops to a beachfront coffee shop.

Graduates earn about AU$80,000 base, plus - for 'strong' performers - bonuses of up to 100 per cent. Analysts start at around AU$100,000, annually increasing by AU$20,000, with bonuses from 50 per cent to 100 per cent. Associates start at AU$150,000, reaching AU$180,000 by third year, with bonuses ranging from 100 per cent to 175 per cent. VPs begin there and, end - well, you name it.

Base salaries rose by 30 per cent to 40 per cent in 2006 at top banks and by 10 per cent to 15 per cent generally, but the big change, says Janette Tam at recruiter Michael Page, is that hefty bonuses are common now. They rose by 15 per cent in 2006 and will jump again by 20 per cent in 2007.

So, how are banks filling positions? They go offshore or offer extra conditions. But increasingly, they are poaching from wider fields, like law, and chartered accountancy.