The relatively safe City jobs still paying out top salaries

THE CONCEPT of a “safe” City job that still pays well in the current market may seem to some a hopeless fantasy. But contrary to popular belief, you don’t always have to make a trade off between your wage and job security.

One option is to find a role in the traditionally counter-cyclical restructuring services. Most of the hiring activity is coming from big American advisory firms like Lazard (recently upgraded from stable to positive by Moody’s rating agency), Houlihan Lokey, and Evercore (whose profit jumped 270 per cent in the first quarter of 2013).

Be aware that a restructuring career requires a certain mindset to succeed. The appeal of closing deals in regular financial services roles is the sense you have created something or helped a business to grow. In restructuring, however, it’s likely you’ll be dealing with businesses at their lowest points – expect lots of miserable and suspicious people, and to work even harder to get to the important details.

Follow the money

David Archer, director at recruitment firm Circle Square Talent, also identifies wealth management as one to watch, particularly relationship management, where practitioners are still getting paid a mint if they have the right client book.

It’s relatively shielded from cyclical movements, with JP Morgan analysts forecasting return on equity over the next three years to be 35 per cent – five times that of investment banking once all major international regulations come into effect. But competition for roles is tough, particularly in London, while hiring activity is greater in places servicing emerging markets like Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Miami.

Meanwhile, operations director at Badenoch and Clark Guy Emmerson notes that finance roles generally are not notably busier or better paid – but they’re not getting worse off either. He identifies finance business partnering as a particular area of interest.

Deloitte have found that 83 per cent of finance organisations plan to increase time spent business partnering over the next three years. Most companies struggle to find people with the commercial awareness, leadership and communication skills required, on top of excellent technical skills, so they’re willing to pay out when they do. Finding a mentor, keeping up with macroeconomic trends and industry news, doing your own research, or even taking a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) could help you meet the required standard. It’s worth noting that CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) qualified accountants have an edge when applying for business partnering roles as they have trained in industry, usually with experience working closely with a specific business unit.

Recruiters agree that risk analyst positions have also hit the top of board agendas, with demand and pay rising accordingly. Emmerson estimates that salaries have risen by 20 to 30 per cent over the last 18 months, while Archer predicts a further 25 per cent increase over the next three to four years in front office due diligence roles.

Market corrections

A final note would be that compliance professionals are still being paid well with relatively good job security. That’s thanks to a lack of supply relative to the huge demands being placed on most of the City’s financial institutions, exacerbated by increasing political involvement. But Archer expects the jobs market will correct itself within the next decade or so, as the supply of candidates overtakes falling demand from the lack of new regulations – so its long term potential is questionable.