Consolidation comes to the financial services recruitment industry

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Times are hard in financial services recruitment. Retained mandates are hard to come by, banks are cutting and capping fees, preferred supplier lists are closed and HR are controlling the recruitment process with the dry hand of bureaucratic procurement professionals.

In the circumstances, headhunting firms with a flare for personalised service are struggling. As the market shrinks, they are consolidating.

Last week, it emerged that the Rose Partnership, a London executive search firm started in the 1980s by the eponymous Philippa Rose is merging with Global Sage, a ‘global’ search firm traditionally strong in Asia.

Rumours are rumbling about mergers elsewhere too. One well known fixed income search firm and one well known equities search firm, both of which have Credit Suisse (which isn’t doing much hiring) as their main client, have been suggested as bedfellows. We understand that Omerta, a leading London search firm, has been approached by Heidrick & Struggles and possibly others.

“The financial services recruitment business has been hit by a double whammy,” complains the head of one boutique. “Business is down because banks aren’t hiring and new regulations around guarantees and deferred bonuses are making it harder for people to move.”

Nor is Asia about to save any of the London-based headhunting firms that have opened offices there. “There’s a lot of noise about Asia,” says the headhunter. “But it’s like it is for the banks – the reality is that the market is still very small.”