Headhunters lament their failure to cash-in during 2010 and 2011

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Now that banks are cutting costs and curtailing hiring, the good times of 2010 and early 2011 are being viewed with something bordering on nostalgia.

“From the second half of 2009 to the middle of 2011 was an unbelievable fee feast that no one could have predicted,” says the head of one fixed income financial services boutique. “No one saw it coming. Everyone was expecting banks to lick their wounds and recover slowly, but the banks went ballistic and did some crazy hiring. It didn’t make any sense, which is why they’re making so many cuts now.”

The biggest hirers of the golden era were UBS, Nomura, RBS and Citigroup and anyone on their preferred supplier lists was rewarded handsomely. Rajeev Misra’s ill-fated UBS build-out is understood to have been a particularly lucrative source of fees during the period.

And now? Search consultants remain in limbo, waiting for banks to finalise recruitment plans for 2012. “The average fee is down 30% since 2007 and there are no volumes,” complains one.

Nonetheless, there don’t seem to be too many redundancies in the headhunting world - yet. “I’ve only seen one or two cuts and they’ve been poor producers,” says Simon Hughes of HighView Search, a headhunter of headhunters. “The market is not fantastic, but recruitment job cuts aren’t happening.”