Banking recruiters in the US and UK are feeling quietly confident about their prospects for success this year. “The job market in banking in London is already looking more positive. We outperformed last February, and our job numbers are trending aggressively in the right direction,” says James Findlay, head of client services and business development, UK and EMEA, at Selby Jennings.
The recruitment industry is benefiting from a higher level of market certainty, says Dan Connors, associate director of banking, financial services and capital markets at Robert Walters in London. “Macro-factors such as Brexit being concluded, the newly elected US President starting his term, and Covid vaccines being administered, will provide a positive springboard for the rest of the year. We anticipate seeing a pent-up demand across a number of sectors in banking, similar to what our colleagues in Asia have seen in more recent months,” he adds.
The current uptick in vacancies is different from the recovery that followed the financial crisis and saw banks increasingly using their own internal teams to source people. “It’s not a candidate-heavy market, which is good for us as recruiters because there’s strong demand for talent, but banks can’t just post jobs on their sites and wait for resumes to arrive,” says Tom Ragland, CEO of Harrison-Rush in New York.
“Banks need us to reach out to candidates and really explain the opportunities out there. A year ago, the talk was that recruitment will be automated when there’s a recovery because people will be so motivated to leave their jobs. But that’s not turned out to be the case in 2021. Banks want to find passive candidates who are performing well, so they need headhunters even more now,” says Ragland.
Joe Astill, managing partner of New York’s Front Street Search, says firms who have “historically kept away from recruiters” have engaged him his year. “They know that with people locked down, it’s harder to identify quality candidate referrals they would normally pick up through meetings, drinks and other interactions,” he adds.
Banks are approaching recruiters with “more specific pain points” this year, says Findlay. “Above all, diversity talent is higher on their agenda. We’re being asked to ensure than long lists are as balanced as possible – for example, when it comes to gender. Sometimes banks are sourcing some of their candidates for a role directly, and then using agencies only for diverse talent, because that’s a harder job,” he says.
Recruiters will have to be flexible with the services they offer banking clients this year, says Findlay. “Sending in resumes is no longer enough. Some clients have too many CVs and want us to focus on quality, others are struggling to manage the hiring process, and some need help with onboarding. As the job market recovers, we must be as flexible as possible. There’s no longer a one-size-fits-all approach,” he adds.
Connors from Robert Walters says recruiters will do better in certain parts of the finance sector this year. “Areas that have done notably well out of the disruption have been those that rely on volatility, such as hedge funds, broker-dealers and the trading arms of investment banks. The demand for candidates with regulatory experience will continue to be resilient in 2021. The regulatory landscape continues to surge forward with little to no relaxations from the regulators. In fact there are indications of increased scrutiny to ensure firms that are not cutting corners in the face of economic pressures,” he adds.
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