Don’t plan on making any knee-jerk moves in January

A RECENT survey by Morgan McKinley found that the number of City job vacancies was up year-on-year for the 12th consecutive month, 9 per cent in November. Traditionally, the first quarter sees a flurry of hiring, following the clear-outs that accompany the bonus season. So will we see this in 2011?

With all the kerfuffle about bonuses speculation is rife that many disgruntled City folk will jump ship when they receive low bonuses – or the dreaded donut, as a zero bonus is known. Some recruiters say that if you suspect that you are heading for a disappointing bonus then you should go now rather than wait until the start of February, when others will do the same.

“As we go into the Christmas period people are thinking about their bonuses and they might decide to vote with their feet, which will increase liquidity in the market,” says Neil Owen of City recruiter Robert Half. And that liquidity, of course, can snowball as positions open up.

But, he adds, this is not likely to be a large trend. People will look not just at money, but the whole package, and work/life balance and stability also have to be taken into account. A bad bonus is not always a reason to leave. After all, if you work in the City you have to take the lean years with the fat ones, and although money is an important part of the package, it is not the be-all and end-all for most people; it’s important to enjoy your work too. So, bad bonuses do not necessarily mean a flurry of moving.

Andrew Evans, MD of Morgan McKinley UK, says that predicting the market is harder now than it was in 2005-2007. “Anecdotally, though, the feeling is that 2011 will be similar to 2010, and if that is true, then the first quarter of 2011 will see a similar upward trend at most City institutions.” Also, he says, there were low levels in the fourth quarter of 2010 and a quieter quarter tends to be followed by more activity in the following one. So the first quarter of 2011 should be good.

Some areas have remained strong in 2010 and will continue to be so, he says, such as change management – things like improving efficiency and offshoring – continue to be options for skilled and experienced people. Compliance is still a big deal for banks, which is a question of managing relationships between institutions and the FSA to monitor and manage compliance. Risk-management is also still a growing area at financial institutions. Sales roles, too, will also arise.

Donut dissatisfaction is real, but it probably won’t lead to a recruitment frenzy. For now at least, it’s still better the devil you know.