For every unemployed banker who goes off to work in B&Q, there are plenty more who set up their own beef jerky companies, who sail the world, or who go into organic wines.
But what does a career in financial services recruitment set you up for? Now that moving to Asia is less of an option, what do you do when you reach the end of the recruitment road in London?
To listen to one headhunter of headhunters, the options for ex-City recruiters are few – especially if you’ve been a very high-end executive search consultant.
“To do well in search, you need to know your market very well,” he says. “You need to know all the senior people and to know why they’re good at what they do. Being successful is all about engaging with those people and getting them interested in a particular opportunity. You need to tell a story, persuade people who weren’t looking to move that they do need to move, and to manage the process.
These are skillsets which are very industry-specific and which you can’t necessarily use elsewhere,” he reflects.
Nevertheless, there are potentialities.
Take Trevor Foster Black as a role model
Take Trevor Foster Black. A military man and then fixed income headhunter in London for nine years until 2002, Trevor got out of headhunting and set up Coalition, a research company which started by mapping people in the market from India and has grown into a fully-fledged financial services information provider. Foster-Black is not typical, but he does demonstrate the possibility of segueing a career in recruitment into something both related and entrepreneurial.
If you’re an executive search professional or recruiter, the other possibility has always been moving in-house. This remains a possibility.
“Banks aren’t doing vast amounts of hiring, but if they are hiring they want to do it cheaply and to use in-house resources” says one headhunter of in-house recruiters (who requested that she remain anonymous for fear of being deluged with recruiter CVs).
“One private bank has just come to us and said it wants to hire an executive recruiter who can save it money,” she adds. “And I’ve been approached by plenty of recruiters who are struggling to make money and get mandates and who want to go in-house.”
In-house recruiters usually make less money than external recruiters and headhunters. However, in a tough market, banks offer recruiters the advantage of a steady salary. ‘Recruitment managers’ in investment banks can command salaries of £75k according to Morgan McKinley.
Recruiting for another industry
The other alternative is clearly taking your financial services recruitment skills and plugging them in elsewhere.
However, this too can be a challenge.
“Recruiting is recruiting, but I can’t actually think of anyone off the top of my head who’s worked in a senior in-house recruiting role in an investment bank and gone into a non-financial services role,” says Lucinda Armitage at Aretai Search.
How bad is bad?
Simon Hughes, a search to search specialist at the Theron Partnership, says there are still opportunities for headhunters to find new jobs in this market. “There have been some recruiter redundancies,” he says. “But search firms are also taking this opportunity to upgrade. Having said that, no one is doing well right now. The level of activity is very, very low.”