It’s been a confusing week for anyone trying to assess Brexit’s impact on London’s banking jobs. First came the trading update from recruitment firm Michael Page, where revenues from placing staff into UK financial services roles rose 4% year-on-year last quarter Then came a statement from Jeremy Browne, the City of London’s UK envoy, suggesting that Brexit job fears had been overdone and that between 5,000 and 13,000 jobs will go (instead of 75,000, as previously predicted by Oliver Wyman). And then came a report from recruitment firm Morgan McKinley claiming that London finance job vacancies fell 37% year-on-year in December, plus a Cambridge study warning that 87,000 fewer jobs will be created in London in the event of a “hard Brexit”.
Which, if any, is correct? While the forward-looking Cambridge study is dealing in potentialities, recruiters on the ground in London question Morgan McKinley’s historic figures for December: when it comes to front office recruitment, at least, they say they’re far busier than they were last year.
“We’re unequivocally busy,” says Adam Cairns, managing director at recruitment firm Arkesden Partners, which places investment banking division (IBD) professionals in the City of London. In January 2017 hiring was on hold after the Brexit referendum, says Cairns. This January, he says line managers have decided hiring can’t wait: “The market picked up around November last year and we’ve been very busy ever since. CEOs want to do deals and there’s strong demand for associates and vice president to join banking teams, particularly in European banks which were less active last year.”
It’s an observation echoed by other corporate finance recruiters. “We’re incredibly busier. Boutiques are very busy hiring, but banks are back in the market too,” says Logan Naidu at Dartmouth Partners. Recruiters in sales and trading are similarly bullish. “This year is going to be a busy one,” forecasts Christian Robbins at macro-focused fixed income recruitment firm Tradestone. “The macro and economic environments are positive and banks are still looking to add staff ahead of rate increases and a return to volatility.”
What, then, explains Morgan McKinley’s 37% December drop in job openings? “Maybe they’re talking about middle and back office jobs,” says one recruiter. “We certainly haven’t seen this kind of fall in the front office.”
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