Finance Job Market: Fewer Positions, Smaller Companies, More Competition

Finance Job Market: Fewer Positions, Smaller Companies, More Competition

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The financial sector in the UK is and will continue to be a major driver of economic growth, and the long term prospects are good both for the sector and for jobseekers. In fact, a recent report from Oxford Economics predicts that the Financial Sector will be the main driver of British economic growth over the next two decades. In the short term, though, stagnation and hesitation among big financial companies is being mirrored by a sense of opportunism in smaller ones. The result is a greater diversity of opportunities in the financial sector, and a different landscape of employment prospects for professionals at all stages of their careers in finance.

Massive uncertainty pervaded the sector throughout 2011, largely as a result of the sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone and a failure to reassure investors. The traditional top players (Barclays Bank, Lloyds of London, RBS, HSBC and the rest) have posted poor results and cut back on staff, both in their UK operations and overseas.Reports last week of further difficulties and job cuts among the major players, for example Lloyds posting record losses, RBS continuing to struggle and cutting posts in Australia, and HSBC scaling back its operations in the Middle East, all add to the impression that short term recovery in the financial sector job market is not going to be driven any time soon by these traditional powerhouses.

In addition to cuts throughout the sector, professionals currently in the job market are likely to come up against stiffer competition for fewer openings. There are signs that with more pressure to make efficient hiring choices, large companies are taking longer to fill their vacancies. Efinancial Careers points to a recent senior opening at the Singapore branch of Lazards, which took 18 months to fill, with some analysts pointing to an average lag of between four and six months, compared to half that a year ago.

But the stagnation of employment opportunities in companies normally considered to be the top employers is not necessarily reflected elsewhere. For example a report published by Astbury Martin, a London based recruitment specialist, highlights how smaller players are making the most of large layoffs in the city, snapping up unemployed ex-city talent for their own outfits.

Mark Cameron, COO of Astbury Martin, describes how “niche firms”, including smaller banks and insurance companies,  “see the current market as a good opportunity to build their businesses and expand operations“.

The long-term outlook for the UK finance sector is good. In the shorter term though, the situation is less rosy. For those seeking employment in the field, the current turbulence requires flexibility and patience, but looking for opportunities in less obvious, smaller outfits may now, more than ever, prove to be a prudent career choice.

Photo Credit: Michael Duxbury