Put the flip-flops back in the wardrobe for another year – the vacation period is over and the lull of July and August is going to be replaced by a relative flurry of activity as banks and financial services organisations look to fill gaps before the end of 2013.
Recruiters are expecting a busier period in 2013 than the last couple of years, following a return to confidence in the job market. “We’ve been hiring, which is a good indication that financial services firms are recruiting again,” said Peter Milne, managing director of banking and financial services recruitment at Robert Walters. “Candidates wanting to secure a role this year should apply now – the recruitment process has sped up, but it is typically still taking two to three months.”
If you’re venturing into the job market at the tail end of the year, and potentially sacrificing accrued and deferred bonus payments, you should be sure that your services are in demand. Here, according to financial services recruiters, are where the jobs will be for the remainder of 2013.
When it comes to technology, banks have largely been focusing on adjusting their system requirements to regulators’ demands over the past 12 months, but now they’re turning their attention to the front office. This means upgrading the tech-heavy FX e-trading systems, but also focusing on asset classes that would typically have relied on more manual processes. “Bonds, rates and credit are all areas of focus for banks’ electronic trading platforms,” said Paul Bennie, managing director of headhunters Bennie MacLean. “It’s client-led and banks want to hire senior programme leads who can interface with the business.”
Initial indications suggest that banks have worked harder to keep their analysts this year, having paid out higher than usual bonuses last month. Part of this is down to better performance, but it’s also because banks are losing ever-larger numbers of analysts and associates to private equity firms and other sectors. This, combined with smaller classes in recent years, has meant a need to bolster ranks.
“In M&A, as conditions improve, firms are looking to plug the experience gap that exists from analyst 2 to associate 1,” said David Leithead, managing director, Michael Page Banking & Financial Services.
Investment banks want compliance professionals who can shape and advise senior management on policies, procedures, laws and regulatory changes, particularly in relation to rates and FX, said Milne. “There is a shortage of people who understand the detail of the product and who can combine technical knowledge of compliance with experience of working with specific products,” added Richard Webber, director of the financial services practice at Twenty Recruitment.
Associates are gravitating towards leveraged finance funds and direct lending funds, which is spurring demand in the investment banks, said Leithead: “These funds are growing their associate pools, creating demand in the banks’ origination teams, from which they are poaching.”
Many of the larger banks have offshored product control roles to lower-cost destinations, which has decimated the ranks in more established financial centres. This is changing to an extent, but largely in the non-bulge bracket banks, said Milne: “Most product control recruitment has been within the SME banks, which haven’t had the opportunity costs of shipping large teams to lower cost centres as the large banks have.”
Banks are hiring change management professionals, with a particular focus on capital requirement regulations like Basel III and CRDIV will impact their businesses, said Milne, as deadlines for implementation get ever closer. “We are seeing increased requirements within the change management function – particularly operational and financial change,” added Hakan Enver, operations director, Morgan McKinley Financial Services.
It’s not all about the sexy technology; investment banks are still having to draft in technologists to focus on regulatory IT projects, said Webber.
“Banks are investing heavily in systems that can help them to streamline capital and liquidity reporting, whether that be through in-house development or off-the-shelf packages. Candidates who have knowledge of these systems are therefore in high demand,” he said.
Investment bankers who took sanctuary in some smaller organisations during the past two years have started moving back to the bulge brackets in recent months, which is creating gaps throughout the associate to VP level, said Logan Naidu, CEO of headhunters Dartmouth Partners: “There are people trading up from a tier three firm to a tier one investment bank, which is creating some urgent replacement hiring.”
On the one hand internal auditors should thank the regulators as “demand for specialist internal auditors with technical experience” is still in the up, according to Leithead. However, banks are also demanding more specialist expertise, according to Morgan McKinley’s Enver.
“Market risk auditors and quant auditors, for example, are currently in demand as are auditors who are more product specific. More and more business-line candidates, with limited or no prior audit experience, are being considered for these types of vacancies,” he said.
Risk management roles have generally been in demand for the past few years, but most of the banks’ recruitment has focused on market and operational risk. For the remainder of the year, it’s more likely to be on credit risk positions, believes Geoff Fawcett, director at Hays Financial Markets: “Banks are lending more, which is a good sign for the economy and is also good news for credit risk roles – this is a sea change from the past two years, when most risk recruitment has been market and operational risk.”
Investment banks are starting build their high yield teams after a surge in issuance globally in the first half of this year, something that could yet come back to bite. However, this shows no signs of stopping for the time being, said one fixed income headhunter: “We’re still doing most of our business in high yield, and expect this to continue,” he said.
While international banks pull back from the Middle East, local institutions are building their investment banking teams to fill the void. “What we are seeing is local banks entering into new areas, moving away from traditional commercial banking and developing their investment banking product capability,” Jonathan Morris, Standard Chartered’s UAE country head, told Gulf News. To begin with, this means building locally, but regional firms like First Gulf Bank and National Bank of Abu Dhabi are also expanding internationally.
If you have experience of anti-money laundering or financial crime, then banks want to hear from you, said Enver: “Professionals who have had exposure to high-risk entities (for example sanctions and PEPS – Politically Exposed Persons) are particular sought after. Other candidates within this area that are currently in demand – and I suspect this will continue to be for the latter months of the year – are those with forensic accounting backgrounds who are being sought after to work in fraud-related positions,” he said.