With the LIBOR scandal running rampant through the banking industry, daubing everyone from Bob and Barclays to Deutsche to RBS and HSBC and others with the faint taint of corruption, now may seem the time to move into something a little more low key. Like trade finance, maybe.
Ostensibly, trade finance has the advantage of hiring. When it released its global trade finance salary survey last year, search firm Healy Hunt spoke of a “steady increase” in trade finance hiring, of “acute talent shortages”, or increasing pay, increasing status, and general good times for trade finance professionals. Trade finance was not perceived as sexy, the survey respondents complained. Something had to be done about this as it was patently not the case.
There has certainly been some hiring in trade finance in Europe this year. Specialist trade credit insurers like Equinox Capital have been hiring. Equinox says it still wants, “experienced trade credit professionals based in France, Germany, the Netherlands, the US or the UK.” Texel Finance has been hiring too. HSBC is predicting an 86% increase in global trade over the next 15 years and says global trade finance is becoming far more important than it used to be as, “supply chains are getting longer and more complex.”
Most exciting of all, recruiters suggest there might be opportunities for people who’ve worked in M&A to get out of that and into trade finance. “Trade finance teams need to hire people with relationships,” says a senior recruiter at one global firm who’s endeavouring to fill 8 senior trade finance roles. “They need access to clients and charisma. M&A bankers can bring both.”
Beating down on the trade finance parade
And yet, before charismatic M&A bankers all rush to push trade finance solutions, they might want to check the following chart from the Bank of England’s most recent Financial Stability report. It doesn’t show trade finance in an entirely healthy light. It shows trade financing dropping off in 2012 along with much else.
Additional figures from Dealogic seem to confirm our suspicions that trade finance isn’t as great as some of its proponents suggest. In the first half of 2012, trade finance deals in Europe were $27bn. In the first half of 2011 they were $51bn.
Nevertheless, there may be one area of trade finance where hiring prevails. Laurie Wray, a director at Brian Durham recruitment, says there’s a shortage of experienced trade finance ‘checkers’ to check all the forms and administration that go with trade finance deals. A lot of these jobs have been outsourced in recent years, says Brian. Because of this outsourcing, comparatively few people in London are now familiar with the full checking process from beginning to end. Smaller London-based trade finance operations who still need these full service bureaucrats are therefore struggling to find them anywhere. Individuals fitting this description are hot. Unfortunately, they’re not especially well paid: £20-£50k is the norm. Is there a bonus? “These are not pay for performance roles,” says Brian.