In the event that you’re seeking a gloom-laden metaphor to describe the current state of the banking industry, Bloomberg news has the answer. It’s spoken to Kevin Conn, an analyst at Massachusetts Financial Services Co, who says banking is in a situation similar to the setting of Ray Bradbury’s science fiction story The Long Rain, in which it starts raining and never stops. Four years after the financial crisis, Bloomberg notes that there’s still no sign of when there will be a big rebound in revenues or profitability.
In the circumstances, financial services recruiters say you will need to accept some new truths if you want to get hired. These are as follows:
“We spoke to a client the other day who was making a ‘critical hire’ for a three man team,” says a director at one financial services recruitment firm in London. “When we asked how many people were going to be involved in the interview process, we were told 20-30. Nowadays, no one wants to commit themselves to new headcount with buy-in from colleagues.”
Another recruiter says private equity funds are asking candidates to jump through ever more crazy hoops: “In the past, you might have been asked to work on one case study during the interview process. Now you might be expected to do two or three, one of which you’ll have to work on in your own time.”
Recruiters say the prolonged and demanding interview and application process causes problems when candidates are working full time and need to repeat the process on several different occasions. “You can go through an interview process once or twice,” says one, “but there comes a point when you’ve used up all your excuses and it becomes difficult to take any more time out.”
Recruitment firm Astbury Marsden said today that the amount of time it takes for financial services employers to get sign-off for new hires has fallen. Astbury Marsden CEO Mark Cameron said it was taking as long as 6-7 weeks at one point, but that’s now “come down substantially.” It now takes more like 2 weeks, Cameron says.
With the end of the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, non-EU workers in the City of London are no longer able to transfer between employers on the same visa. Instead, the new employer has to sponsor a new tier two visa. Unless a candidate is exceptional, recruiters say employers are unwilling to do so.
“It takes quite a lot of effort to sponsor someone for a Visa,” says the director of one firm. “Unless they’ve been trying to fill a vacancy for months and have interviewed tens of people, most banks are unwilling to do it – especially for more transactional roles.”
“There are one or two guarantees still knocking about, but they’re only for particularly strategic hires,” says the UK managing director of one international search firm. “In 2010, your average run-of-the-mill director or VP got a guarantee, but that’s certainly not the case now.
“Most firms have a policy whereby VPs don’t get guarantees at all,” he says. “There are just too many people that can be picked up without one from the street.”
Headhunters say a lot of people are unsurprisingly unwilling to look for new jobs because they’ve amassed large deferred bonuses with an existing employer.
“Moving is seen as a big risk,” says the search firm MD.
Unfortunately, there’s no way around this: you may get your stock bought out, but you’ll still be shifting all that deferred value into the stock of your hirer. In the case of Credit Suisse, whose stock has fallen 30% since mid-March, this is clearly a bad thing.
“Banks are very specific about what they’re looking for,” says James Heath at search firm Greenwich Partners. “Increasingly, they will specify very precise amounts of experience in a sector in a very detailed job spec. Candidates need to stress their sector and language skills,” he adds.
Fund management firms are hiring. However, their salaries tend to be substantially lower than investment banks and recruiters say anything above around £125k is usually impossible to negotiate. If you want to move to the buyside, you'll need to do so in the hope of a bonus.