It's now over two weeks since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Financial services hiring has slowed, but there are still windows of recruitment activity. Technology is one of them.
Two weeks ago, there was little indication that the virus had reduced banks' appetite to hire. - Figures from Thinknum Alternative Data show that Citi, Goldman and Morgan Stanley posted more U.S. jobs overall on the average day between March 1st and 13th 2020 than on the average day in all of March 2019. The same held for Morgan Stanley, Goldman and Citi in the UK.
In the past week, however, things have slowed. Anecdotally recruiters say there's less recruitment, particularly in the front office. "The only hiring that's happening is the stuff that was approved before the lockdown," says one fixed income recruiter. "- Everything else has been iced." In technology, though, it's a different story: tech recruiters are bullish.
Ahsan Iqbal, director of technology at recruitment firm Robert Walters in London, says banks' tech recruitment dropped off initially this month, but has since crept back again. "We're not seeing increased demand from finance clients for people in software development, security, devops, cloud, and digital platforms," says Iqbal. "There was a pause, but now hiring is back."
Adam Francis at recruitment firm Experis in London agrees: "In financial markets technology hiring terms, the software engineering market seems to be extremely resilient so far," he says.
If technology recruitment remains comparatively robust, recruiters say it's because the nature of many roles in the space makes it easier to interview and to onboard people remotely.
"Previously an experienced software engineering interview may have consisted of 1) a telephone interview b) an online code exercise or techncial test and c) in-person interviews. The only change now is that remote video-conference-based interviewing has taken the place of in-person interviews," says Francis. If anything, the fact that management and staff are now based at home has freed-up space for hiring, he adds: "There's much more quiet and undisturbed time in which to plan and execute interviews and make offers."
Iqbal confirms this. "Being out of the office doesn't seem to have made much difference - companies are simply interviewing and onboarding via Zoom or Skype and posting out the kit to candidates at home so that they can start work." One finance client has made 10-15 technology hires in the past few weeks, he added.
Not everyone is as bullish. At JPMorgan, new joiners have been delayed (on full pay) for at least a month. One technologist at the bank said they're still interviewing both internally and externally but that it may be hard to get actual offers over the line. At Goldman Sachs, technology jobs now account for 40% of the total live on the bank's website - down from 44% last time we looked in January.
If lockdowns become the temporary new normal, this may change. Francis says technology recruitment could increase further still in the coming months: "Cyber Security and IT risk and audit recruitment are likely to surge in demand given the additional risks involved with having a 100% remotely-based workforce, as well as with a notable increase in COVID-19 specific scamming by fraudsters," he suggests.
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