FS recruitment shows muted recovery signs

Timothy Barber
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AFTER the bleakest period in the City&rsquo;s job markets for many years, there have been flickering signals in the past few weeks that financial recruitment is inching its way back towards the light. But the message from recruiters is to treat such signs with extreme caution for now.<br /><br />Earlier this month, recruitment firm Hays reported that despite the company seeing a 45 per cent drop in net fees to the end of June, there was evidence of stability returning to City hiring. According to the Daily Telegraph, Hays finance director Paul Venables said, &ldquo;The institutions in a strong financial position are looking to build up the best teams so that when recovery comes they can attack it. We&rsquo;ve had a freeze but you cannot freeze recruitment forever.&rdquo;<br /><br />Meanwhile, in its Employment Monitor report for June, fellow recruiter Morgan McKinley said that new job vacancies in financial services had increased by 20 per cent compared to May&rsquo;s levels &ndash; the highest so far this year. That tallies with the view of Sarah Williams, operations director with FSS Financial Recruitment, who says there has been &ldquo;a definite increase in job flow in the last eight weeks&rdquo;, with some of the larger financial institutions &ndash; who had all but shut up shop as far as hiring was concerned &ndash; re-entering the market. <br /><br /><strong>FEWER OPPORTUNITIES</strong><br />Cause to celebrate? Absolutely not, say recruiters, and job candidates hoping for a flood of interviews to materialise may be disappointed for some time yet. Any increase in activity needs to be taken in perspective, and Morgan McKinley reported that despite the rise in new job volumes, there were still 58 per cent fewer opportunities in June than in the same period last year.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a bit of an increase, but I wouldn&rsquo;t say more than that,&rdquo; says Andrew Evans, managing director of Morgan McKinley UK. &ldquo;The level we&rsquo;re coming from was so unbelievably low, after all. But there&rsquo;s a bit more of an appetite for hiring as organisations stabilise and confidence levels improve slightly.&rdquo;<br /><br />Evans says that a positive element of the latest news is that, while the previous few months may have seen brief flurries of activity in certain restricted areas, the current upturn &ndash; however muted &ndash; is occurring much more broadly across the financial sector. <br /><br /><strong>DARKEST DAYS IN THE PAST</strong><br />At the very least, it seems that the darkest days of the job market may now be in the past. The extent to which a general increase in activity can really gain traction is harder to forecast, however, particularly with the holiday months traditionally being recruitment&rsquo;s most fallow period. But Richard Webber of recruiter Twenty Financial Services believes that if results for the second half of the year show the same signs as the first, there could be exciting times ahead in 2010 for the most able bankers.<br /><br />&ldquo;The top performers who get themselves in the right jobs now will see career progression beyond what they previously have, as the market swings into recovery,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I predict the war for talent will be even fiercer than before as the FS industry tries to shape up leaner and meaner for the next bull market.&rdquo;