The theory is that the financial services job market is heating up. Recruiters are hiring people for expansionary reasons for the first time in three years, and optimism has returned to the sector – aside from the fact that some investment banks are still trimming headcount.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as this. If you want to advance your career, you still need to be working in both an area where demand is on the up and possess skills that will set you apart from the legions of financial services professionals. Here, according to a series of interviews with financial services recruiters, are the skills in demand.
There’s growing demand at analyst and associate level for front office investment bankers in M&A, says Logan Naidu, CEO of headhunters Dartmouth Partners. At this level, core technical skills are more important than any deal experience, he says.
“Modelling and valuation are obviously important for any of these roles, but there’s a particular demand for those with experience of LBO modelling,” he says.
Conduct risk, namely the likelihood that past treatment of customers will come back to haunt the banking sector, is one of the key concerns of the industry, according to Bank of England governor Mark Carney. The result, from a recruitment perspective, has been a surge in change and programme management roles as banks look to deliver large-scale transformation projects.
“There has been a significantly increased focus to review how banks conduct business with their customers,” says Peter Milne, director of financial services recruitment at Robert Walters. “Many are striving to adhere to more regimented conduct risk frameworks to ensure that customers are treated fairly.” Day rates for contractors come in at £600-800, but salaries for permanent employees are relatively low, at £40-50k for an associate and £90k+ for a director, says Robert Walters.
If you’re a Chinese speaker with experience in the City of London, consider yourself in demand as the City attempts to carve out another niche for itself as the centre of choice for renminbi trading. As recruiters Astbury Marsden pointed out this week, both Cantonese and Mandarin are highly desirable languages among financial services organisations in London currently.
If you’re a hedge fund marketing professional, consider yourself in demand. Hedge funds want people who can both raise money from institutional clients and develop the sort of ‘sticky’ investors who are not tempted to pull their cash when things take a turn for the worse. However, there’s also a big desire to hire those who can tap investors on the Continent, says Peter Elliott, managing director of hedge fund recruiters Elliot James.
“Marketing professionals are in high demand currently, particularly those who can speak French and German,” he says.
Anti-money laundering recruitment continues to defy gravity and is now into its third year of rampant recruitment with too few candidates to fill the void. This is exascerbating as the issue of financial crime becomes a key concern beyond the large tier banks, says Luke Davis, client services director at Robert Half. “Many mid-tier and insurance firms are now looking at creating approaches and policies to mitigate financial crime,” he says. An AML Manager can now expect up to £122k, its figures suggest.
After a positive 2013, the much vaunted pipeline of IPOs has many banks looking to build their ECM teams. Much of this is (again) focused at the junior end. “Most recruitment is for analyst and associates, but there’s appetite to hire ECM specialists up to VP level,” says Naidu. There’s a particular demand for technology specialists, after the best start to the year for internet IPOs since 2000, according to Dealogic.
Forget, for a moment, the new focus on getting Python developers into investment banking, or the fact that Java has become the defacto skill for those working on trading platforms. Financial services organisations want C# developers to help them roll out their websites, says Davis.
“Financial services businesses in particular have been finding it easier to support and amend C# code compared to C++ and other languages,” he says. “This has led to some organisations moving to one just one development language, especially with many investment banks looking to consolidate trading activity to a minimum number of platforms and applications.”
Yes, another chance to become an expert in a particular acronym, or essentially ensure that your bank has adequate capital and liquidity. Operational risk management professionals, who can help their employers develop a framework for both the Individual Liquidity Adequacy Assessment (ILAA) and the Internal Capital Adequacy Assessment Process (ICAAP), are being hired “across all levels” according to Hakan Enver, operations director at Morgan McKinley Financial Services.
In a financial sector where compliance is increasingly king (at least in recruitment terms), those with monitoring expertise are being courted by investment banks, private banks, asset managers and hedge funds alike. Those who can shake up the processes and lead projects are most likely to secure a job now, says Milne: “Due to increased regulatory scrutiny, many financial services employers are reviewing their governance and control frameworks, ensuring these adhere to industry best practice.”