Does Australia have a two-speed recruitment market?

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In the wake of the global financial crisis, a leading headhunter has described the Australian banking recruitment market as "two-speed".

John Coles, CEO of Executive Group International, says global banks are in limbo as they wait for direction from new owners and/or overseas masters.

Meanwhile, Australia's comparatively strong economic growth and its mining industry are helping to hold up local commercial banks with minimal exposure to sub-prime calamities. "The globals are taking orders to downsize while Aussie banks are still hiring," he added.

Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital Investors, agrees that Australian banks are faring relatively well. "Profits and the return on shareholders' equity are still around record levels, non-performing loans relative to total assets are very low, and capital ratios are high."

However, local banks aren't entirely immune. "Australian banks would be at risk if the downturn in G7 economies leads to a sharp slowdown in Chinese growth which in turn removes the key stimulus now holding the Australian economy and the household sector up," adds Oliver.

Despite this caveat, Oliver Darkes, principal consultant at Carmichael Fisher, says domestic firms are continuing to poach quality Australian candidates.

Darkes comments: "There has been a fair amount of movement from the foreign i-banks to the institutional businesses of the domestics. That said, the [local banks] are being fairly hesitant to recruit en masse. There's talk of CBA establishing an equity markets platform bit by bit. ANZ are looking at re-entering structured products, while NAB Capital is exploring the equity structured product market place."

However, Darkes concedes that those moving to a domestic bank can expect to take a financial hit. "The base salaries will be similar. However, the foreign banks generally pay bonuses in multiples, while the domestics tend to pay percentages."

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