CITY recruiter Michael Page said yesterday it sees no end to the hiring freeze that has hit the UK’s financial sector, as it posted a 12 per cent drop in net fee income from its banking business.
“Banking remains difficult and certain geographies remain more challenging than others,” said the group’s chief executive Steve Ingham, identifying Italy, Spain and Britain as countries that had been particularly badly hit.
Shares in the recruiter, which specialises in accounting, financial and legal jobs, fell close to a two-month low following the update, despite the company posting an overall rise in net fees by seven per cent for the first quarter as a whole.
The total figure showed that March had seen an unexpected slowdown on the 10 per cent rise booked in both January and February.
Industry insiders have suggested the traditional hiring boom associated with spring has been pushed back in recent years as companies stagger bonus payments – delaying the rush of high-quality candidates to the market.
Gross profit rose, climbing to £136m in the three months through March from £127.3m a year ago. Asia Pacific showed the strongest growth, up 23 per cent, but at the opposite end of the scale the UK declined by four per cent.
But Ingham insisted the group’s international diversification meant it was well-placed to continue to grow.
“The diversity of the business, in terms of other professions away from banking and other geographies away from the UK and southern Europe, makes us feel that we can achieve solid growth this year,” he said.