Some options for financial services recruitment professionals in this market

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This is not a happy time to be a financial services recruiter.

Anecdotally we hear of old hands being let go after their client base has shrunk by 96%, of endless contingent recruiting mandates (for which recruiters only get paid if the candidate they put forward is actually hired) and of a lot of meetings for coffee but not much else.

“We’re very busy, it’s just that we don’t seem to be doing anything that will get us paid,” explains a partner at one financial services recruitment firm. Meanwhile, there are rumours of a merger between two of the top financial services search boutiques in the City, strenuously denied by the parties concerned.

So, what’s a financial services recruiter to do?

This is what those in the market are suggesting.

1. Focus on the top end

This will be easier said than done if you’re a contingency recruiter, but industry watchers say high end search firms seem to be doing ok still. “Retained search is very hard to come by unless you’re operating at the most senior level and are seen as a client advisor,” says Ed Bathgate at search to search firm Longbottom.

“At the very senior level, the market seems more insulated,” says Bathgate. “At a mid to senior level, the conversations are procurement focused. Clients have built their internal recruitment businesses and are trying to save costs.”

2.  Move into ‘Leadership Consulting’

The Association of Executive Search Consultants has just added ‘leadership consulting services’ to its roster of services, suggesting this may be a growth area.

Sufficiently vague to cover a multitude of sins, leadership consulting includes:  talent strategy, succession planning, team assessment, executive coaching and board advisory work.

3.  Start recruiting in a different sector

The Financial Times says the bottom’s fallen out of financial services recruitment and that generalist recruiters are seeking to diversify into other areas, like IT or energy or high-tech industries.

Unfortunately, if you are a dyed-in-the-wool financial services recruiter, metamorphosing into an energy and gas specialist may be challenging. Bathgate says a large pay reduction is probably inevitable.

4.  Try moving in-house

Again, this may be easier said than done. Viv Dykstra of HR headhunters Dykstra Associates says banks have become increasingly reliant on RPOs and have very few in-house recruiters of their own these days.  RPOs are hiring, says Dykstra, but they tend to pay less. There are HR roles in banks, but they’re not recruitment related. “The only roles we are really hiring into are for HR business partners, learning and development specialists and compensation and benefits professionals,” she says.


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