In the ideal family unit, there might be some synergies between the parents' careers. The mother might be a famous model, the father might be a famous fashion photographer. Or the father might be a fisherman and the mother might build boats. Or the mother might be a banker and the father a banking headhunter...
While not exactly common, this last combination is less unusual than it seems. The banking-headhunting marital union seems to be one that works. Surprisingly (given the lack of women in banking), in several cases the wife is the banker.
"My wife has a good job and she has the steadier income," says Robert, a senior financial services headhunter who emigrated from London to be with his wife, a private banker in Paris. "We've got young children and it made more sense for me to step back than her.
"Headhunting is a far more flexible career than banking," he adds. "You have to go to a few meetings with clients every year, but the most important tools are a phone and emails. You can pretty much do it from anywhere, which isn't the case if you work for a big bank."
Andrew, a London-focused headhunter, lives with his young family in Norfolk. Every day, his wife commutes into London to work as an equities analyst at a U.S. house. While she's away, Andrew takes his daughters to school and to tennis lessons and other after school activities. "I know of a few other guys in a similar situation," he says. "They work in financial services recruitment here and their wives work in professional services. We're definitely in the minority though."
The stay-at-home-headhunter is a post-2008 phenomenon. Both Robert and Andrew work for themselves, making it possible for them to alter their schedules to accommodate their children. "The money you can make from headhunting has been a lot less in the past few years," says Robert. "When you do make money, it makes sense to keep it for yourself rather than paying it to the company you work for. And you can still get onto banks' preferred supplier lists if you're working for yourself and have a good track record."
Both men admit to having some help with the childcare. With their wives busy in full time employment, Robert has a part-time nanny and Andrew has an au-pair. "I'd rather be at the pumps full time," admits Andrew. "None of us were doing this in 2005, 2006 and 2007 because the market was so busy. Right now, it's all about keeping your costs down."
And when you get a difficult client? At that point, Andrew says headhunting can be as demanding as M&A. "Some clients expect you to be always available. I've had to sit on the phone a lot during holidays and I'm always responding to emails and answering texts." That can be a little be difficult when there are shouty children in the background. "I'd say you need a full time nanny when they're younger," Robert suggests.