Wherever you are in the world, 2016 is turning out to be a tough year for finding a new job in finance. However, if you work in the City of London it's turning out tougher than most. Some global torpor is inevitable in the light of cost-cuts and with revenues forecast at their lowest level since 2008, but in London things are worse - far worse. And it's all because of the EU referendum.
"People are just very reticent about jumping wholeheartedly into hiring when no one knows whether the UK will vote to stay in the EU in June," says James Findlay, head of risk and compliance recruitment at Selby Jennings in London. "This is especially the case at the tier one U.S. banks," he adds. " - They're just staying on the sidelines, waiting to see what happens."
If compliance hiring has dried up, things must be bad. Compliance was the gift that kept on giving. In the past few years, most banks have hired hundreds - if not thousands - of extra compliance staff. Globally, BNP Paribas added 1,000 compliance professionals in 2015 while HSBC hired 2,500, for example. This year, recruiters say things have changed: cost-cutting banks are cutting in compliance as well; compliance jobs are being off-shored to places like Romania (at Morgan Stanley) and sign-off is slow. "It's cost cutting and it's the uncertainty over membership of the EU: they're both affecting job flow," reflects Joseph Guilfoye at recruitment firm Robert Walters.
With the exception of HSBC, which has explicitly announced its intention of moving trading jobs to Paris, few banks have officially disclosed their contingency plans for a post-Brexit Britain. However, there are no shortage of rumours regarding potential outcomes. - Goldman Sachs is reportedly prepared to keep whole areas of its new London office empty if Britain leaves the EU; Credit Suisse is purportedly planning to hire or move even more traders in Dublin. In the circumstances, hiring in London before votes are cast on June 23rd looks a little reckless.
After the referendum, however, it will be a whole new world. With the chances of a Brexit now put at a mere 18% by Bloomberg's Brexit poll tracker, London's finance recruiters are forecasting a flurry of hiring in July. - So long as the country votes to stay in.
"A vote to remain will reinvigorate the London hiring market," says Chris Robbins at fixed income focused-search firm Alpha Tradestone. "- There will be more stability and this will make it possible for banks to make medium and long term hiring decisions."
If the UK votes to remain in the EU, Findlay forecasts a massive uptick in hiring from September onward - once everyone's back from their holidays. "Usually hiring happens in the first and second quarters, but this year we're expecting it to be skewed towards quarters three and four," Findlay says.
If you want a finance job in London in 2016, the ideal time to find one could therefore be this autumn - although recruiters suggest you get your finance CV out there sooner as "dialogues" about hiring will start in advance. A new study by Robert Half suggests it takes around eight weeks to fill finance jobs in London; if you plan to ride the wave of hiring in September you might want to start buffing up your CV in June for launch in early July.