Scarier times for financial services recruiters

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The slowdown in financial services hiring is now making itself amply felt in terms of recruitment jobs. Longbridge, Robert Walters and Odgers Ray & Berndtson have all made known redundancies. Numerous other recruiters have undoubtedly done so a little more surreptitiously.

Longbridge has performed the most spectacular headcount evacuation of the lot. Holding company Greatfleet called in the administrators back in July.

Longbridge was subsequently sold to recruiters QPS. According to one insider, headcount at the company has gone from somewhere in the region of 35 to somewhere in the region of four. He says bad management was to blame: "You had things like excessive bar tabs and high costs, combined with a lack of visibility about what was coming in."

Robert Walters has also been divesting itself of employees. Net UK fee income at the company fell 3% in the first half of this year, prompting it to "streamline the management structure".

One of those streamlined says it's a blessing in disguise: "I've got a whole year's salary and plan to travel the world."

Odgers is also said to have been doing some trimming, although one consultant at the company says cuts have been focused on support staff rather than headhunters.

When will it all end? Kevin Lapwood, an analyst who covers recruiters at Seymour Pierce, says it's hard to say, but it won't be particularly soon: "We have been in a recruitment downturn in financial services now for nine months. I wouldn't be at all surprised if things didn't pick up now until maybe the second half of 2009."

There is some good news, however. Hays, which reported its results this week, said it hadn't sacked any financial services staff. And Lapwood says most recruiters are failing to replace people who leave rather than axing those who stay.

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