Net 'threatens' to create jobs

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However, the truth is that the City labour market is never in a steady state: employment patterns are continually shifting. At any given moment some employers are laying off workers, while elsewhere new jobs are being created.

Very often one organisation is simultaneously making redundancies and recruiting, both expanding and retrenching.

Throughout the 1990s there were two principal reasons - which are still apparent today - behind this phenomenon.

The first is the globalisation of the financial services industry. The prospect of achieving greater economies of scale brings two or more players together.

Inevitably it is the human cost that is cut. Global market forces play a part in it. With the collapse of the Russian economy, institutions pulled out of Moscow and there were inevitably job losses similarly when the bubble burst in Tokyo and when Latin America went into decline.

Second, new technologies are prompting a further reduction in costs as price transparency increases and information becomes more readily available.

The internet, some might say, is undermining the core businesses of many City institutions.

Jealously guarded information, from which brokers derived huge margins, is now becoming easily accessible to anyone with a computer, a modem and a phone line - the so-called disintermediation effect, whereby we cut out the middle man and his employer makes him redundant.

So is it right to decry the end of City jobs as technology takes over? Far from it. The internet is creating opportunities for organisations as well as for individuals.

Charles Schwab needs little introduction. Its name, which has become a by-word for e-trading, can be seen on billboards right across London and banner ads all over the internet.

Here is an organisation that has overcome disintermediation by applying the reach of the internet to conquer a mass, global market.

And have you ever wondered what happens to those individuals whose jobs are lost to the internet?

Take the futures traders of Liffe for example. Some transferred their knowledge of futures trading to the new electronic exchange, while others are applying their understanding of the needs of the futures industry to sell the new technology to their former employers.

Bond salesmen have similar roads open to them and should view the internet as the springboard to a new career.

By applying their knowledge of the City markets and how to structure a bond deal combined with their understanding of the sector's IT needs, they could, for instance, become specialist IT consultants to investment banks. It's the story of poacher turned gamekeeper.

Those who find IT just a little dull, however, need not be concerned. Of the hundreds of people we assist every year, consistently around half of them leave the City altogether and apply their unique collection of skills, experience, interests and know-ledge to a whole new world.

Few people look forward to receiving their marching orders, especially when their job is being handed over to a machine. But there's nothing new in it.

Ever since the industrial revolution, technology has been replacing jobs that were hitherto undertaken by people. Economists used to say that technology would destroy employment.

Common sense and empirical evidence shows that technology merely changes the nature of employment. This applies particularly to the internet revolution, although its very nature means the pace of change has quickened.

The trick is to keep on your toes and lead the way. The key to employability is for individuals to invest in themselves, keeping up-to-date with market changes and the new skills those changes require.

The role of outplacement consultants is to help individuals to break out while protecting the reputation of organisations as employers of choice so they can continue to attract and retain the best people.