Yesterday we held our latest breakfast meeting for investment banks' senior recruiters at a secret subterranean location in London. We're not at liberty to say who was there. Nor are we at liberty to say who said what. However, we can give you a flavour of the discussion amongst the 13 senior recruiters who were in attendance from various major and minor investment banks, fund managers and securities firms.
Given the duration of the debate (1.5 hours), a lot of ground was covered. In this article, we'll focus on the key questions: Hiring - will there be any? And will things improve in 2013?
This is what was said....
Dual sign-off procedures for new hires are now common. Some banks are revisiting their strategies every few months and there is an unwillingness to commit.
There are not necessarily hiring freezes in place, but there are strict headcount restrictions.
At the end of a particular period, headcount for a business must not exceed X. This gives line managers the freedom to hire - as long as it's on the basis of one- in-one-out.
The one-in-one-out policy is encouraging upgrading. Existing staff at second tier firms seem particularly at risk of being replaced by new and improved alternatives. Lesser-name banks say they're being approached by some excellent people who are on the market and would not have considered them previously.
Banks are under far more pressure than they used to be to fill vacancies with internal staff. If you fear you might lose your job, look at the intranet.
One attendee representing a large bank said 2010 was "the biggest year they had ever had" for hiring. Anything compared to that will seem weak, he explained.
In a build-out market it's all about filling seats as quickly as possible. In a business as usual market, it's all about ensuring the right people are filling the seats.
One head of recruitment said the emphasis this year has been on hiring the right senior staff. He didn't say as much, but we suggest that once these senior staff are comfortable, they will want to hire their favourite people into their new businesses. Next year could see a lot of mid-ranking hires due to politically motivated 'upgrading.'
Senior bankers have seen the writing on the wall and accept that they are going to be paid less. Mid-ranking bankers haven't. Mid-rankers still think they're going to get a big uplift in their bonuses at the end of the year and demanding to be compensated for losing that when they change jobs, said one senior recruiter.
Last year was all about data hiring, said an EMEA head of recruitment for a major bank. This year is all about compliance hiring. Hiring hasn't dropped off, it's just shifted functions.