18th Sep 2009
Careers Centre > Quarterly Job Market Review

TopFinancialJobs Quarterly Survey Q1-2 2009

At the end of July, Paul Robinson, Regional Sales Director at leading financial recruitment agency Martin Ward Anderson took time out to participate in TopFinancialJobs' inaugural quarterly survey. Looking back at the first two quarters of 2009, the first half of the year was described as " of the most challenging periods finance recruiters have experienced in their careers. The number of positions being recruited by organisations across almost all market sectors has seen one of the biggest declines ever witnessed.

"Redundancies have pushed many more candidates onto the market causing a shift from a candidate-driven to client-driven environment. Today, there are many more candidates than there are jobs. Prospective employers are now extremely selective when hiring candidates as they have the luxury of selecting from a far larger candidate pool than ever before.

"In some cases candidates have chosen to leave the accountancy sector altogether and pursue alternative career options. Graduates who were hoping to gain placements on trainee schemes in organisations or the profession are, for example, opting to take a year out and re-assess their options this time next year."

Looking ahead to the third quarter of 2009, "the expectation is that the market will remain challenging. The continued slowdown in the market will be compounded by the July/August holiday period, which is inherently a time of limited recruitment spend across the UK.

"However, there are signals of increased confidence. Our clients believe the end of the year could herald a far more positive outlook.

"There are pockets of improvement across a number of sectors. Some of this is, ironically because firms are potentially too lean after recent staff cut backs, so that any natural attrition has to result in a replacement as a critical hire." At the same time, however, "most financial services related companies are still finding it tough but as the downturn has cut deep into the entire economy, nearly every sector has taken a hit."

Asked to comment about confidence in the financial job market, Paul stated: "Indications are that the downturn is slowing. There is more positive talk than negative. However, I believe we still haven't seen the full on effect of all the downsizing that has occurred in recent months. There has been a slight increase in the number of jobs coming to market, although it is still too early to say that this is an ongoing trend. But once the holiday season is behind us, there is every reason to believe there will be more hiring decisions being made in the latter part of 2009 and early 2010."

Furthermore, "the rate of decline has definitely slowed, which is the first indication that the worst is behind us. This said however, we still need to be aware that we're still not at the end of the headcount reductions from a lot of firms and we still haven't experienced the overall impact from these (and past reductions on the true economy). I would say we are past the worst but with some pain yet to be felt. The majority of our clients are indicating freezes on all non-critical hires with no indication of when this will change - although there's definitely a more confident feel in air when we're speaking to our key decision makers."

When asked what advice he would proffer to candidates struggling to find work in the candidate-rich market, Paul advised that "It's important to be flexible in all aspects, from making oneself available for interviews, to role content and salary expectations. For the first time in many years, clients are in the driving seat when hiring candidates and have a greater choice available to them. Candidates need to have done exceptional research into the position and company to ensure they have the best chance of securing a position in the midst of intense competition."

Finally, Paul identified the following trends in the financial recruitment sector:

  • Highly competitive & challenging job search conditions
  • Employers are in the driving seat - supply far outweighs demand
  • Employers are demanding very specific skills & experience
  • Interview process has become more intense. Average time to hire has doubled from 4 weeks to 8 weeks

Martin Ward Anderson work with the most respected organisations in the world recruiting permanent, temporary and interim finance professionals across industry and commerce, financial services, public sector, not-for-profit and practice.

Experts at another leading financial recruitment agency, Joslin Rowe, also responded to TopFinancialJobs' quarterly survey. According to the team at Joslin Rowe, "during the first half of 2009, recruitment activity centred around strategic or replacement hires and roles requiring incredibly niche skill sets."

The second half of 2009 looks "...more positive in terms of recruitment activity. Job volumes have increased slightly and there's every sign this will be maintained." Within the financial recruitment sector as a whole, "most sectors have seen some improvement," whilst "front office recruitment remains the most affected."

Joslin Rowe are "definitely noticing an increase in recruitment activity within our client organisations. A rise in recruitment activity is a good indicator of a turn in the market, as our clients increase head count to support business needs. However, job volumes are nowhere near 2007 levels. Another positive sign is the number of candidates keen to explore opportunities outside their own firm - at the start of the year most people in secure employment were staying put."

Looking at the market from the point of view of financial job seekers, the team at Joslin Rowe offers the following advice: "while competition is fierce due to a high volume of job seekers, there are still positions available within the market. Job seekers need to make sure that they stand out from the crowd.

Tailor your CV to the position that you're applying for, highlighting your skills and experience so that your CV stands out by particularly those that are relevant to the job that you're applying for.

If you secure an interview, make sure you prepare thoroughly. If your interview is through a recruitment agency like Joslin Rowe, speak to your recruitment consultant about possible questions that you may be asked at interview and prepare specific examples from your experience to highlight your answers. It's important to take time to research the company."

Joslin Rowe specialises in temporary, contract, change/interim management and permanent positions with clients in the financial services sector. Roles covered include accountants, insurance professionals, investment managers and banking operations professionals.

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