2017 brings us not only a new year, but also a new US administration and a new Europe, amongst a broader world of change. In London, we are already seeing the knock-on impact and uncertainty associated with that word we have all come to loathe, ‘Brexit’, with many questioning whether the City will still retain its desirability as arguably the capital of the European financial services industry.
The reality is that many of us have been left feeling slightly clueless, and some have even admitted that they did not call events correctly. I for one felt my blood draining when I saw that the decision on my mortgage coincided with the day after the UK referendum result. Unsurprisingly my story was accompanied by many others, some on a slightly greater scale, including multi-billion dollar mergers falling apart, and major fund commitments being withdrawn.
You may be forgiven for thinking that this is a doomsday piece, but on the contrary. From my position as an Executive Search Consultant, I have seen the financial services sector develop a thick skin over the last seven or eight tumultuous years. In my conversations with many senior investors they have actually identified advantages within the turbulence that others dread, either to curtail the over-inflated valuations of companies in which they wish to invest, or, in the case of credit investors, to be able to create yield in an ever competitive market.
On reviewing the facts, 2016 was a good year for fundraising; significant capital has been raised across Europe and there is a desire to do deals. Perhaps as a consequence, we saw a significant increase in hiring across the board, especially in the latter half of ’16, and 2017 has started with the same vigour. I may be called to account on this, but I firmly believe that London is still the nucleus for European financial services and will remain as such. This is thanks to vital practical elements like the strength of the UK’s rule of law, both financial and employment-focused, and the unparalleled provisions for financial institutions in place in London by virtue of historical precedent, not to mention the city’s astonishing breadth of cultural diversity and the unique advantage of time-zone positioning.
So what are the focal points for 2017? The financial services market is ever increasingly skills-driven. What does that mean? Well since 2007 there has been a concentration on getting ‘the hire’ right. Clients are more conscious of the accountability that potential bad hires can have, and therefore have been all the more focused and exacting with regard to the criteria that they require from the perfect candidate. This for me is our ‘real time’ situation. It is a good market in which to look for a new role, whether you are seeking a position in Investment Banking, Private Equity or Asset Management. Some hedge funds are still feeling the pinch from last year’s less predictable events, but they may yet see strong growth in hiring this year, given the Preqin All-Strategies Hedge Fund benchmark posted returns of 7.40 per cent in 2016, marking the best performance year for the industry since 2013. This point is ratified in that we are now seeing individuals with the most sought-after skill-sets receiving offers from multiple firms.
So yes, 2017 will undoubtedly bring more change, and probably a few bumps along the way. However, I believe that despite the inevitable shifting sands in Europe, or Trump’s perhaps not entirely meticulously planned new vision, there will be some great opportunities within the market. Demands consequently will be higher for certain capabilities to capitalise more effectively upon these market conditions, so it is imperative for those seeking new roles to identify precisely where their most relevant strengths lie. Of course those firms that are hiring equally must be aware of the more pronounced competition that they will face in securing the best new talent, and therefore need to ensure that they offer a uniquely compelling opportunity to a prospective hire.