We're in the dead zone: the stub-end of the year when banks take stock, formulate strategy, try to protect the bonus pool. This year, the bonus pool is going to be smaller than ever; no one dares do anything that might dilute it further.
In the circumstances, hiring new staff and adding to the cost base seems like a no-no. Especially when those new staff are trying to elicit bonus guarantees. However, there will always be some hires that are unavoidable - whatever the point in the cycle.
A look at banks' own recruitment websites reveals that since the start of September, the combination of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Nomura, Barclays, Deutsche, Credit Suisse and UBS have posted a total of 67 new jobs. 30 of these are at Citi alone, and include retail banking roles. The others are distributed as follows: Goldman 6, JPMorgan 5, Bank of America 5, Nomura 1, Barclays Investment Bank 1, Deutsche Bank 4, Credit Suisse 1, UBS 14.
Needless to say, most of these jobs are in the back office and middle office - banks are less likely to advertise front office roles on their own sites and - historically at least - back and middle office staff have been less likely to demand guarantees or to have deferred bonuses that need to be bought out. This may be changing however: some middle staff are complaining that their bonuses are also being spread over a period of years.
The biggest hiring right now is for IT staff. But risk, control and compliance people are also still popular.
Citi's more interesting roles include: a regulatory change specialist, a derivatives collateral manager (reflecting new collateral rules), and a senior compensation specialist.
Bank of America has started looking for a project manager for global risk initiatives, a senior business control specialist and a senior anti-money laundering professional.
Credit Suisse is looking for a management reporting senior analyst.
Morgan Stanley has started advertising for a quant associate and a senior credit risk analyst.
Goldman wants a 'financial investment professional' for its private bank, which is in growth mode. However, you'll need previous private banking experience. JPMorgan is advertising a role which might be a good route into the front office: it's looking for a 'derivatives sales analyst' to prepare presentations and develop new clients for its Russia and CIS team.
On the whole, however, it looks like Klaus Woeste, the head of financial services people change at KPMG with whom we conducted a Q&A last week, was right - hiring now is mostly about risk, compliance, and control functions. When it's none of those things, it's about IT.