On one hand, corporate brokers are having a hard time. On the other, things are looking good.
The main problem, for the cadre of very British, very charming individuals who help listed companies decipher the vagaries of the market, is that there are far fewer IPOs than there used to be. At the same time, with as many as 200 companies expected to leave the AIM market this year, the number of potential clients is falling.
There are upsides, however. Companies' problems raising cash are making corporate brokers' services more invaluable than ever. The IPO drought is being partially compensated by a deluge of rights issues. And with the withdrawal of Lehman and questions over established players like Kleinwort Benson, there have been more mandates up for grabs.
Jerry Keen, Director of Corporate Broking at Blue Oar Securities, says 2009 looks promising. "With companies finding it difficult to borrow from the banks, more of them are turning to the equity markets. We're expecting a lot of secondary placings, the probability of success and ease of execution of which are far greater than for IPOs, particularly in the current market."
But after a rush of corporate broker hiring at all levels in 2006 and 2007, recruiters say hiring is quiet. "I haven't seen much going on since early 2008," says James Heath of Greenwich Partners, who recruits at a junior level.
This could make life difficult for corporate brokers who are out of a job. Straumur, for example, cut overall staff numbers at Teather & Greenwood by 43 when it brought it out of administration in October last year.
There may be - as ever - demand for senior individuals who can bring clients. Collins Stewart picked up Dresdner's 12-member investment company team in late 2008, Barclays is rumoured to be hiring as part of its equities push, and brokers such as Altium Securities, which has added clients, might be interested in 'talent.' One senior corporate broker says he's received three calls from headhunters since the start of this year.
Keen definitely appears keen: "It's going to be a very good year for hiring," he tells us. "You are going to be able to pick up some very good quality people."