Corporate finance pay and hiring prospects rebound

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London-based corporate financiers disillusioned with their end-of-year bonuses might want to contemplate relocating to Scotland. Recruiters say corporate finance roles in the country are proliferating.

But at senior levels at least, pay is unlikely to lift the spirits.

"We get a lot of Scottish corporate financiers returning," says Colin Weir, a consultant in the Glasgow office of the Professional Recruitment Group (PRG). He says: "The skill set is eminently placeable - we've had people from Lehman Brothers, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein and elsewhere. But if you want to move to Edinburgh you'll need to accept a drop in salary."

For senior London-based corporate financiers used to earning high six-figure pay packets this may be a little difficult to bear. Weir says their counterparts in the Scottish market rarely receive in excess of 100,000, although salaries are rising. "We see more jobs in the 80,000 to 100,000 bracket," he says. "A few years ago these didn't exist."

Both HBOS and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) have corporate finance teams in Scotland, offering everything from M&A strategy advice to advice on acquisition finance and specialist lending. Others, such as Clydesdale Bank and National Australia Bank are also understood to have small teams in the region.

Scottish recruiters say recent demand for corporate financiers has been driven by the two big players, with HBOS, in particular, seeking to boost its team in the wake of the 2001 merger between Halifax and Bank of Scotland.

Junior accountants ride the hiring wave

Carla Wilson, a consultant at the Edinburgh office of recruiter Badenoch & Clark, says the appetite for hires has focused at junior levels, with newly qualified accountants in particular demand. "Banks are looking for qualified chartered accountants (CAs) with corporate finance experience, or lawyers with corporate finance experience," she says. "There's a massive skills shortage around newly qualified levels."

David Bond, executive director at Edinburgh-based recruiter Cairns Bond, says Scotland's corporate finance teams haven't been the only source of demand for newly qualified accountants. "Standard Life have recruited around 100 accountants in preparation for their demutualisation," he says. Weir says RBS also hired as many as 40 accountants outside its corporate finance team last year.

There is some dispute as to whether this flood of demand for accountants will persist. Bond thinks it unlikely: "Hiring last year was driven by some very specific situations. I'd be surprised if it's as busy in 2006." However, Weir, who recruits for HBOS, says the company remains interested in hiring accountants into corporate finance roles.

Whether hiring rallies or not, pay for those at the junior end of Scotland's corporate finance market is likely to remain appealing. Wilson says newly qualified accountants with two to three years' post qualification experience can expect a salary of between 35,000 and 50,000, plus a bonus of up to 50%.

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