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London’s financial employment rollercoaster



The latest employment figures from Morgan McKinley suggest that the number of job openings in the City’s Financial Services rose by 20% in the first three months of 2024 compared to the to the final quarter of 2023 and fell 33% compared to the corresponding period last year.

David Leithead, COO, Morgan McKinley UK commented: Whilst the first quarter of 2024 saw an improvement on the previous quarter, this was largely due to normal seasonal factors –  Q1 tending to see the release of new budgetary year hiring sign-offs, coupled with an urgency to front load the year’s hiring (even if limited) to maximise its impact.

“The more telling figures are the steep decline compared to Q1 2023 and this shows that overall the City continues to rein in hiring, to low levels last seen when the pandemic hit, and before that, during the Global Financial Crisis.

“This time it is less event driven, instead the continued global economic unease and geopolitical tensions which have dampened optimism. Bank bosses, facing Basel endgame cost pressures, have hit the brakes. In the management of talent/resource levels, we saw in 2022 the banks’ willingness and skill to respond, fast and aggressively, to maximise perceived opportunities on the up, and what we are seeing now is the same strength of reaction the other way as the firms settle into defensive mode. They are better at this talent acquisition ebb and flow than ever before.

“It’s not all doom and gloom because the banks will be ready to spring back into hiring mode when the chance arises: it’s in their DNA to seek out and create opportunity. Short term volatility itself lends chances, and the medium term outlook for M&A and underwriting looks quite positive. So we expect things to improve at some point perhaps in Q3 or Q4.”

Leithead concluded: “In the meantime limited growth and pressure on costs means lower volumes of hiring from the front office through all areas of the infrastructure, and lower budgets for projects and initiatives. Attritional/replacement hiring continues, particularly in SMEs. Specialism is key: even in defensive mode banks want to defend better than their competitors and will fight for the top talent to help their mission.”

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