Financial services recruiters aren't very optimistic that 2012 will mark much of a departure from the doldrums of 2011. "I have never seen it as bad," Jason Kennedy, CEO of recruiters The Kennedy Group told Bloomberg only last week. "The future is also bleak," Kennedy added, bleakly: "This will continue for another 14 or 15 months: 2012 is definitely a write-off."
However, while 2012 already lies dead on the doormat, it would be wrong to assume necrosis in all areas of financial services recruitment in the coming year. One part is already showing signs of life: infrastructure. There's not much hiring there yet, but it's coming and the jobs are likely to last.
"Infrastructure is seen as an asset that can provide long-term stable growth income," says Timothy Rowe, managing director at real estate and infrastructure recruiters Cobalt Recruitment. "We're already seeing quite a lot of jobs. Some big pension funds are forming teams to drive their infrastructure business; others are putting their money into the growing number of specialist infrastructure funds."
The British government is giving infrastructure a boost. This week, it's expected to set out a national infrastructure plan in an effort to encourage pension funds to invest in UK infrastructure projects, which are now seen as offering better returns than gilts whilst being less risky than equities.
Today, the Chinese Investment Corporation has said it wants to invest in UKinfrastructure, either through a public-private partnership, or as an equity investor.
Astute financial services firms are already alert to the potential. Last week, Terry Keeley, COO of Stormharbour, told us he expects infrastructure to be a growth area as insurers move into infrastructure investments for liability management. Stormharbour wants to hire people who have senior level relationships with insurance companies to capitalize on this, said Keeley.
Julian Davey, director of infrastructure headhunters J.D. Search and Selection, says there's not much hiring yet, but that people have "every right to be excited."
"Infrastructure is a low risk, long term investment which fits the profile a lot of investors are looking for now," he says. "The insurers will want to develop infrastructure teams and take on people to identify investments."
Rowe says the rarity and demand in infrastructure is for people who have the skills to undertake transactions and who really understand the underlying assets. It would be difficult to develop this profile within the next four weeks. But long term, developing a knowledge of infrastructure suddenly looks like a very good investment.