When will big hiring happen again?

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With protestors urinating in branches of RBS and drawing chalk pictures on the Bank of England, it may seem a little fatuous to be wondering about the return of banking jobs, but we are a banking jobs website and this is what we do best.

Sadly, there have been indications this week that 2009 isn't going quite as well as we'd all hoped. Share prices have fallen. John Mack has warned that Morgan Stanley is in for a difficult year and Deutsche Bank's risk chief is saying that we're still deep in the middle of the crisis.

Unsurprisingly, recruiters are a little gloomy. "It will be at least 2011 before banks start hiring again," says the head of one financial services search boutique in London. "Until then, I am living off my savings."

Banks' own hiring people say it's not quite this dire. "We're still looking at cutting headcount," says the head of HR at one US bank. "In the meantime hiring hasn't gone away altogether - there are so many good people around that we're upgrading."

"We're hiring people right now," agrees a senior recruiter at a US firm. "People are being poached away by Credit Suisse, BarCap and Deutsche and we need to replace them. We're hiring in pockets."

However, there's agreement that real recruitment (AKA actually adding headcount) is unlikely any time soon and that the hiring boom of 2005-6 will either never return or take "decades" to reemerge. In the meantime, banks are doing an increasing amount of the work themselves.

Some recruitment firms say JPMorgan is doing all its recruitment directly. One insider says this isn't the case, but that recruiters are only being fed the scraps. "Most people are shopping themselves to us or networking amongst their peer group. We're only using recruiters as a last resort."

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