Small is sometimes beautiful for financial services accountants

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With big investment banks taking longer to hire people, smaller institutions are now better placed to snap up good finance professionals. Recruiters say they're making the most of the situation.

Laura Kirk of recruiter WH Marks Sattin says, "We've seen an increased hiring appetite from smaller firms, which are taking advantage of market uncertainty to go hunting for top-tier finance talent. Increased caution in larger banks means they occasionally lose out on star candidates - although they are still hiring, and brand names always carry weight."

Although some of the big players are paying the price for hanging around, it doesn't appear to be causing widespread concern: "There's not a huge worry that all the best talent will go elsewhere," says Kirk. "Nonetheless, smaller firms have been playing an excellent game, and their forward thinking will result in some excellent hires that they might not have attracted 12 months ago."

However, don't assume smaller banks are immune from financial woes. Mid-market brokers like Collins Stewart, Panmure Gordon and Numis have seen business plummet as new issues on the Alternative Investment Market have dried up.

Zachary Meade of FSS City says some smaller firms are in just as much pain as their larger counterparts: "The media feeding frenzy around bad news for some of the bigger institutions doesn't necessarily mean that smaller ones aren't also feeling the squeeze - they just don't get reported as much."

And he warns against accountants regarding smaller banks as a failsafe career destination in the current market: "The real issue should be where you feel most comfortable and likely to thrive. A smaller environment may suit accountants who want a more hands-on role - but there may not be as much room for manoeuvre. Some people would better suit a bigger organisation, with different layers and more opportunity to move around long-term."

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