If you're thinking of finding a new banking job in 2018, the time to do so is, theoretically, now. After all, bonuses have been paid and hiring budgets approved. Banks have spaces to fill and for front office roles in particular, they usually like to do so before the year progresses too far and they have to pay a full bonus for only a few months' work.
This is the theory. Depending upon your area of the market, it may also be the reality. Amidst the chaos at Deutsche Bank, with the 'wrong kind of volatilty' subduing trading revenues everywhere, and with costs being cut to enable investments in technology, headhunters in London still say they're busy - in some cases, very.
"I've been here since 6.45am this morning," says one fixed income headhunter, speaking off the record. "We're swamped with work. It's prime hiring season."
Senior headhunters don't like to talk on the record for fear of compromising client confidentiality. A leading London equities headhunter said the year has started, "well," for hiring, irrespective of MiFID II, and that there's ongoing strong demand for the kind of "platform sales" people who are replacing traditional equities sales types. Macquarie continues to build its European equities electronic trading business under ex-Credit Suisse trader Daniel Kaye, Although MiFID II is only now taking effect in equity research after a three month grace period from regulators, markets headhunters say the fact of its existence is unleashing pent-up hiring demand: "It's been like Y2K," says one. "- There were all these fears and they haven't been realized."
This hasn't stopped some banks from laying off equities staff. - BofA's quiet round of equities layoffs in February included the likes of Tim Cross, a veteran equity sales MD who'd been at the bank over 22 years, plus mid-ranking researchers like Inês Duarte Silva (medical technology) and Tom Burlton (technology). Duarte Silva just joined Schroders, suggesting researchers are still wanted by the buy-side. "There's no growth hiring in banks," says one equity research headhunter. "It's all replacement hiring for people who've left for funds."
In M&A and corporate finance, meanwhile, headhunters say demand remains strongest for senior associates and junior VPs: people looking for jobs at these levels are most likely to be in luck. Hiring at senior levels is happening, but is typically patchy. Citi's addition of ex-J.P. Morgan star, Andrew Truscott, as an MD in its European investment banking team raised eyebrows last month, as did Perella Weinberg's addition of Matthew Smith,from Barclays and Alex Wilmot-Sitwell from Bank of America this month. Holes are being filled: Morgan Stanley's financial institutions group (FIG) team was depleted by the departure of Matt Cannon, the former head of FIG, for Bank of America in February, along with Max Mesny and others last year; the U.S. bank is said to be on the verge of announcing a big replacement hire.
In fixed income, macro hedge funds are back in building mode. Colin Lancaster is still hiring for his 20 person macro unit at Citadel. Ex-Citadel and Lehman Brothers trader Tim Wilkinson is building something similar at Balyasny. In both cases, however, ex-hedge fund traders are likely to be more popular than ex-traders from banks.
Unexpectedly, perhaps, headhunters say Deutsche Bank is also on the lookout for staff in the macro space after hiring three senior people from Goldman Sachs this year. The German bank has indicated that there will be no change of strategy under its shiny new CEO, although the fact that it's also reviewing which areas of the investment bank are viable suggests this may change. "Overall, there's a positive feeling in the macro space," says Christian Robbins at Tradestone Search. "Desks were cut to the bone, so if someone leaves it usually creates an urgent need to hire."
And if you don't find a job during the spring hiring window? Don't worry. "The bulk of banks' hiring still happens in the first six months of the year, but hiring has become much more elongated now that bonuses are a lower proportion of pay," says one front office headhunter. "Last people we were still filling roles in November," says another. "It's become such a depleted market for talent at the director and VP level that banks will now hire whenever they are able."
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