It's August, the very height of the summer lull, and most financial services organisations are in the midst of a post-Brexit malaise. To suggest that anyone is a desirable candidate in the City right now, let a lone a profile that recruiters are actively trying to capture, is the realms of fantasy.
But maybe not. While most investment banks have pressed the pause button on recruitment and the majority of candidates are reluctant to move , there are certain people who will make recruiters drop their lattes in excitement. These are the phrases you should be using on your CV right now to impress recruiters.
German language skills are hot, and this isn't because investment banks are trying to drag people across to Frankfurt in the wake of the Brexit vote. Logan Naidu, CEO of recruiters Dartmouth Partners, tells us that banks on the ground are trying to persuade analysts, associates and VPs to relocate across from London to Germany for roles, but this pull is also still in both directions. Meanwhile, Gail McManus, managing director of Private Equity Recruitment, says that the buy-side is desperate to get its hands on top M&A or leveraged finance juniors who speak European languages - especially German.
It stands to reason, perhaps, that while the UK economy may not exactly be experiencing a huge shock from the Brexit vote, some corporates already under pressure from a difficult environment could find themselves with a need to restructure their debt. "We're getting to that stage of the cycle," says Andrew Pringle, director of headhunters Circle Square. "Right now, we're seeing a lot of demand for VPs with experience of debt advisory and restructuring work."
Technology remains one of the few M&A sectors that is (slightly) up for the year to date - by 2% globally, according to Thomson Reuters - and it's here where the demand lies, at least at the junior end. Recruiters suggest that associates with technology deal experience are currently sought after at investment banks across the City, but the key is a) having worked on deals that have actually closed and b) being able to prove your own contribution to those deals.
Private equity firms are opening up their analyst and associate recruitment programmes, or hiring in top juniors on the back of a strong round of fundraising. McManus suggests that the class of 2014 should therefore be polishing up their CVs ready to stand out from the crowd. "You should have ideally worked on at least four transactions you can talk about and have exemplary financial modelling skills. If you're top of your class, great, but a lot of analysts claim to be top of their class, so top five is more realistic."
While everyone focuses on banks and the government parachuting in Brexit scenario planning consultants and paying them £1,000 a day for the privilege, investment banks in the City have a more pressing concern - MiFID II. "Business analysts who can help financial services organisations scope out the business requirements for MiFID II are in huge demand," says Ash Bhopal, founder of recruiters Alexander Ash. "It's a ticking time bomb and some firms are a long way behind. The problem is for many is that it's a very expensive interim resource, as permanent placements are very rare." Bhopal says that individuals can take home £750 a day in these roles.
Quant hedge funds are king right now, and firms are desperate to bring on quantitative analysts and developers with a combination of statistical modelling skills and, importantly, knowledge of Python programming language, which has gone from the preserve of a few investment banks like J.P. Morgan and Bank of America Merrill Lynch to a stalwart of the buy-side. Hedge fund Man AHL recently launched a coding competition to undercover new Python developers coming through university, suggest it's still not the easiest skill to find.
Cyber attacks and information security are ongoing concerns for banks right now and the recruitment of information security analysts has ramped up in recent months. JPMorgan, SocGen, HSBC and other large banks are all hiring, but banks want old hands – ten years’ experience to provide high level advice on what they should be doing is more valued than, say, a legion of white cap hackers.
Private equity funds might be still raising funds in Europe, but this doesn't mean that it's a walk in the park for all real estate, VC, hedge funds or infrastructure funds right now. Purses are tighter among investors, so private placement agents are being called upon and are bolstering their ranks. "Right now, we're seeing the most demand for junior ECM analysts who are perhaps feeling a little unsettled in large investment banks, given the tough environment for capital markets teams," says Pringle. "It's a difficult fund-raising environment out there, particularly for funds that are not household names or which are going to market for the first time."
If there's one thing that will get PE recruiters excited, it's junior professionals coming out the other side of a top buy-out firms' training programme and looking for a new position. Getting to associate is the 'crunch point' for juniors at large PE firms, but success is far from guaranteed and many are ejected soon after the training programmes finish. This does not mean you're unemployable, however - far from it. "Around 60% of jobs in PE are for analysts, associates and senior associates," says McManus. "If someone is coming out of a well-regarded training programme, we want to hear from them."
Do you know all there is to know about overhauling anti-money laundering or know-your-customer processes within an investment banking environment? Yes, well, consider yourself in demand. "Financial organisations continue to struggle with client data and how it's managed," says Bhopal. "Project managers and business analysts - anyone who can think strategically about KYC and AML is highly sought-after."
So, healthcare M&A deals are also holding up well and it's the smaller firms - globally at least - that are getting to the top of the league tables. Evercore Partners, Centerview Partners and Guggenheim Partners are all in the top ranks. It's the boutiques that are hiring, suggests Pringle. "There's a lot of demand for associate level healthcare-focused investment bankers and much of the hiring is within mid-tier banks."