Vintage year beckons for recruitment market

WHISPER it quietly or you may be beaten to the chase, but the City is suffering a shortage of candidates for good jobs – a situation not seen since the economic downturn began. Now that those bonuses that have been paid out are safely stashed in the bank, the traditional spring job hunting can begin in earnest.

A clutch of financial services jobs surveys yesterday boosted hopes of a return to growth for the industry that was forced to batten down the hatches in the face of the global financial crisis. City professionals from Mayfair to Canary Wharf can be heard dusting off their CVs.

The war on talent could produce a vintage year for remuneration, several headhunters have predicted, with competition for candidates expected to reach fever pitch in the second and third quarters of the year. This column argued last year that the City remains a fantastic place to build an interesting and challenging career. But perhaps I jumped the gun. Today looks even rosier if estimates are right.

According to one survey from Astbury Marsden, 53,000 City vacancies are expected to emerge in 2010 – a rise of 26 per cent on last year. Looking at this surge in more detail over the first quarter, this means there were 11,020 vacancies in the three months – up from 4,970 in the same quarter of 2009.

But those firms keen to poach talent will have to stump up attractive packages to win the battle because many employers worked hard to retain staff during the downturn, not to mention the fact that workers have dug in just hoping to ride out the recession. The return to equities by investors has also helped to fuel demand for high quality candidates in roles such as project management, analysis, back office, risk and compliance, finance departments and marketing teams, Ambition UK’s research has revealed.

Recruiter Morgan McKinley found the average City salary – which does not include bonus payouts – was £55,689, an increase of eight per cent on the previous month. It also says new job opportunities in financial services were up by 21 per cent in March compared with February and ahead by a staggering 83 per cent compared with March 2009.

An increasingly mobile workforce can also look outside London and it is Hong Kong and Singapore that are leading the way in terms of the job market recovery. Financial services employment in Hong Kong bottomed out in the fourth quarter of 2008 – three months before London – and has since recorded an 89 per cent rise in the number of jobs available in banking and financial markets. HSBC boss Michael Geoghegan’s decision to transfer his headquarters from Canary Wharf to the former British colony spearheaded a shift East. But for those financial services workers who are set on staying in London, 2010 could prove to be a brilliant year to secure a lucrative new post.