After years of cosmopolitanism, banking may be about to become more parochial as banks focus on origination rather than product expertise.
Michael Karp, chief executive of international search firm Options Group, says that in most global financial centres local bankers are being retained and expats and incomers are being let go: “It’s a lot more cost effective to keep a local person – you don’t have to pay expat packages and local people have better customer relationships,” he says.
“In this kind of market it’s all about origination,” agrees one London headhunter. “Domestic nationals are best placed to generate new business in their local markets. It’s a fact of life that if you have a guy who’s half French sitting next to a guy who’s a Brit, you’re going to go for the Brit because he’ll have better local contacts.”
It’s not only French and German bankers in London who are suffering disproportionately – British bankers in the US are apparently being heavily trimmed too. According to the Guardian the favourite haunts of Brits on Wall Street are experiencing a severe lack of custom.
“We’re getting a lot of calls from non-American bankers in the US who are worried about their future,” says the London headhunter. She adds: “In the US market, it’s difficult to succeed at a senior level unless you’re a local. When banks on Wall Street choose which junior staff to get rid of, they’re therefore cutting non-US nationals who aren’t seen as being in the US for the long run.”
Win Bischoff’s exit from Citigroup last week helped illuminate UK bankers’ waning currency on Wall Street – the New York Times’ DealBook blog marked the occasion with a parody of his Britishness.
The local jobs phenomenon may apply to non-client facing roles too. A recent survey by London-based middle office recruitment firm FSS found that 87% of respondents were not expecting to offer more roles to overseas candidates in 2009.
“A significant percentage of foreign bankers who lose their jobs are repatriating themselves,” says Shaun Springer, chief executive of search firm Napier Scott.
Foreign bankers who don’t choose to repatriate themselves might improve their chances of finding a new job in the UK if they devote some time to eating fish and chips and standing in queues.