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Finance Dublin Recruitment Survey: IFSC and NAMA currently offer best job prospects in financial services Back
A Finance Dublin survey of Ireland’s specialist financial recruitment consultants and headhunters, shows that while the market is still slow and it is still very challenging the majority of recruiters are reporting green shoots. A large contingent say Q4 ‘09 was the best period in over 18 months with most of this positive activity carrying into 2010. These signs of growth are also sprouting up in the IFSC as opposed to domestic financial services say recruiters, that is except for jobs being created by NAMA
The signs of growth and recovery in employment in Ireland’s financial services industry are coming in the IFSC and not in Ireland’s domestic financial services sector shows a Finance Dublin survey of 24 of Ireland’s recruitment firms who specialise in financial recruitment. 14 of the 24 said that green shoots in finance jobs are by and large coming from the IFSC instead of domestic financial services, while 8 say there is a mix of both. Only two said that green shoots are coming on the domestic front.

While there is optimism of a slight recovery on the levels of activity in the early part of 2009, this optimism about a jobs recovery in both the IFSC and domestically is however guarded. And while most say they are seeing the most activity in the industry for eighteen months they describe the market as less dismal rather than good. ‘In a nutshell, while employment levels appear to be stabilising, the number of claimants on the Live Register began to level off throughout the final quarters of 2009, visibility on job creation in the short to mid-term remains limited but more optimistic than Spring 2009,’ says Susan Cox managing director of Cox Fitzsimon Wilkes.
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Cox’s sentiment is mirrored by many others. For instance Niamh O’Brien of Irish Recruitment Consultants says ‘There are more encouraging signs now than there have been for the last few months but they are still only signs and hiring patterns are still slow generally.’ Andrea Clarkson of Premier Recruitment says that there has been a modest return to activity in recruitment and ‘December for Premier Dublin was our busiest month of the quarter when traditionally it has been the slow down month.’

The reinsurance and insurance sectors are the most auspicious sectors of the IFSC. When asked to rate each of the sectors (see table) on a scale of 1-10 on which was best for jobs, insurance came out as the strongest averaging at 7.5 - with some rating it as a 10. Funds came second with 6.5. Meanwhile, domestic sectors such as wealth management and retail banking are at the bottom of the table with 4 and 3 respectively. James Hays of Robert Walters says, ‘Reinsurance/insurance remain steady with a demand for actuarial/underwriting and finance professionals and fund administration companies are beginning to recruit again across the entire sector.’ Eileen Moloney of Brightwater says that ‘Since September / November 2009, encouraging signs in the life assurance, aviation leasing and boutique fund manager / administrator sectors.’ Cox says that in the funds sector, ‘We are seeing some evidence of jobs creation in this sector, in some cases jobs that were ‘postponed’ or ‘shelved’ due to the ‘wait-and-see’ mindset during the financial turmoil are now proceeding, but with funds companies affected by a drop-off in fees due to falling fund values, employers are proceeding with caution and an eye on cost control even with new business beginning to flow back to the industry and expansion plans by some of the larger fund houses that were put on hold last year now being given the go ahead for 2010.’ Jennifer Ward of Sigmar says that they ‘have noticed boutique fund companies being set up across the IFSC creating new opportunities for candidates in areas where there have been significant redundancies over the past 18 months.’

A couple of respondents made special reference to the growing demand for risk and compliance based professionals which is in keeping with the expectation of increased regulatory oversight in financial services. On the domestic front, the best jobs opportunity will come from NAMA say many of the recruiters.

Salary falls, a feature in the past two years, have started to slow say most recruiters. But salary levels have fallen by 8 per cent in the past year and 15.6 per cent in the past two years according to an average of responses. These falls however vary greatly depending on the sector and the seniority of the positions in question. Simon Warrington of Merc Partners says ‘At senior levels, we are seeing little impact on base salary - the big issue is around bonus. There is still a lot of international uncertainty as to the impact of remuneration capping. There is naturally something of a media / public feeding frenzy around the bonus issue at present, and while some of the institutions have shelved bonus payments, others are still accruing for bonuses.’

Also commenting on the top end of the market, Eoin Blake at Lincoln says ‘senior level have definitely taken a hit, with a lot of top executives accepting up to a 30 per cent decrease in salary. Given that some of the roles have been on a contract basis salaries for some positions have remained intact with candidates forfeiting the benefits that go with permanent positions.’
On a sectoral basis, Mary Grealy of Accountancy Solutions says that ‘Funds have shown the biggest reduction in salary over the last 2 years as they were very well paid back in 2008 and needed a correction.’

Some sectors have, however, been unaffected says Eamonn O’Reilly, ‘demand for senior compliance, risk and regulation candidates continues, salaries in these areas remain largely unaffected.’

The recruiters were also asked the question: ‘Would you advise a young person to enter financial services as a career? ’22 unequivocally said that they would. Allira Salem divisional manager Robert Half says, ‘Yes, if little/no experience, the limited opportunities mean that in 5 to10 years people who enter the market now will have far better prospects and climb the career ladder significantly quicker than those that entered the market 5 years ago.’

However, two respondents were more hesitant to give a blanket recommendation. Des Goldrick at Hays says, ‘Depends on the area. For example I would not recommend entering a career in funds at the moment.’ Erica Skelly said ‘At present there are very limited entry level opportunities with financial services for graduates. The majority of roles being recruited in this sector are at specialist level.’

When asked what was the main threat/s to the future of international financial services employment in Ireland, the majority (13 recruiters) said that Ireland may still be pricing itself out of the market in terms of labour costs and as a result jobs will migrate to low cost centres. This is still the case despite the reduction in labour costs through wage cuts already discussed. Salary levels in Ireland are considered too high when set against competitors such as Poland and India. Janet Moran of Priority Placements says, ‘The wage levels are still fairly high and for specialist experienced candidates who still seek the high end.’ ‘The fact that labour costs are still high is also of concern (A clear example of this has been seen in fund administration, where many firms have set up back and middle office functions in Poland or India)’ says Patrick Kelly senior consultant Paragon Executive Intelligence.

The potential fallout of the downturn and what impact it will have on the Irish labour market in terms of a loss of skills both caused by unemployment and emigration is also a worry. ‘The lack of employment over the last 12 - 18 months, means there will be a gap in the IFSC market in middle management roles in 5 - 10 years, resulting in risks to the organisation with under qualified employees, or candidate shortage again,’ Allira Salem, divisional manager Robert Half says. Erica Skelly principal consultant financial services at Careers Register makes a similar point. ‘When the market returns to form there will be a huge skills shortage with graduates moving abroad and into other sectors in the interim. With graduates finding it difficult to make inroads and progress in the industry there will be a shortage of mid to senior candidates with managerial experience available causing a gap in skills down the line.’
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