As a headhunter who’s built a career finding top talent for top banks on both sides of the Atlantic, I know a bit about the cyclicity of investment banking. – The good times don’t last and the bad ones keep coming back. Right now, the second quarter isn’t looking too hot – there’s hesitation about pushing on with the hiring plans conceived at the start of the year. As usual, most people in banks are being asked to do more with less. – With one exception: HR. Banks’ human resources departments are more over-staffed than a Soviet-era production line.
While everyone else in banks is scrimping and saving, HR departments have been one of the beneficiaries of rising control budgets. With regulators clamping down on hiring and pay practices, finance recruitment is fraught with regulation. The amount a new hire is paid, the way that pay is structured, the way a person is assessed and validated – everything has to be done by the book. Administrators are having a field day.
The most noticeable effect of all this has been a massive increase in the number of so-called ‘Talent Acquisition Specialists’ involved in the finance recruitment process. While everyone else is scrimping and saving, these guys are doing a lot less with a lot more.
Once upon a time, HR people in banks had multiple functions. – The HR generalists would do everything it took to support a business line, from recruitment to employee relations. Not any more. Nowadays there are Talent Acquisition (TA) people concerned specifically with every minor detail of the recruitment process. I’ve seen TAs whose only role is to send out offer letters, TAs who entire purpose is to manage the transfer of unvested stock from one bank to another.
While recruitment in banks used to be a comparatively simple process, the preponderance of TAs has added a new layer of complexity. There is an entire army of them, each touting a hoop that needs to be jumped through before you get a job. If you’re working in a front office role in an investment bank you may be ignorant of their existence – until you go to hire someone and realize that your previous HR point-person has disappeared and been replaced by this assortment of new alternatives.
The Talent Acquisition function is a cost centre with the mentality of a revenue-generating function. To add insult to injury, it’s often staffed by people who aren’t commercial and who couldn’t cut it working for external recruitment firms. These are people who have moved in-house because they want the nice, steady, salaried income that results from being employed – even though good recruiters can earn multiples working externally. They’re box-tickers on a power trip. Nonetheless, they’re the ones manning the velvet rope.
Talent Acquisition specialists – remember that name, because believe me, you’ll come across a lot of them sooner or later.
Jason LeBrun is the pseudonym of a disgruntled recruiter in the London market.