Next time a London banking recruiter tells you your application has stalled because of Brexit, take a deep breathe. He, or she, is probably telling an untruth. Five months after the UK referendum, and London recruiters insist that hiring is as healthy as is to be expected in an industry that's cost and revenue constrained. Recruiters do need an excuse for brushing candidates off though, and Brexit is usually it.
"The new-new thing is to say that jobs have been pulled because of Brexit," says a director at one London recruitment firm, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It provides a nice easy excuse when you can't get any feedback after an interview or the candidate was so dire that you only have bad news. Often, recruiters or clients will say a job's been pulled because of Brexit and will continue interviewing other people."
With the Brexit process still mired in uncertainty, recruiters say a degree of normality has in fact returned to the London hiring market. "I'm as busy as I've ever been at this time of year, and I've got hires going through pre-Christmas," says Christian Robbins at fixed income search firm Alpha Tradestone. It helps that fixed income trading revenues were buoyant in the third quarter. It helps too that fixed income professionals are happy to move this late in the year without having their bonuses bought out. "With bonus expectations at a minimum, people are unusually willing to move for the right opportunity," says Robbins, "The upside is the right role, at the right firm." And once one business critical person moves, that role needs to be filled - Brexit or not.
It's a similar story for jobs in compliance and risk, where London recruiters say Brexit is also a bit of a non-issue. "We haven't seen much of a downturn at all because of Brexit," says James Findlay, head of risk and compliance at recruitment firm Selby Jennings. "If anything, the U.S. election and the summer break in Continental Europe had more of an effect on hiring," he adds.
Instead of pulling jobs because of Brexit-related uncertainty, Findlay says most hiring managers actually spend this time of year frantically trying to use up their headcount allowances. This in itself can be tough: "It's the tricky roles, hard-to-fill-roles, that are left until year end." When a candidate doesn't meet a challenging specification, Brexit can provide a handy excuse.
If you're looking for a job now, therefore, and someone pulls the Brexit excuse on you, it's worth being a little incredulous. Brexit is there, and it could become an issue, but banks still need to hire and with the British government quietly said to be trying negotiate a bilateral agreement (which may or may not succeed), banks are in no real hurry to stopper hiring in London. When someone blames Brexit for your failure to secure a job, therefore, they might really be saying that you just weren't right for that role.
Whether this applies equally to blaming the election of Donald Trump remains to be seen.