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Operations & Middle Office Market Update – 2013/2014


Market Trends

The recruitment trends within the middle office and operations throughout 2013 were notably different than some of the key hiring trends of 2012.
The need to implement changes in accordance with the Dodd Frank regulations was again an important reason for hiring in 2013, but it was not as prominent of a factor as it was in 2012. The area most affected by these changes appeared to onboarding/new accounts and the last portion of Q4 was very active for candidates with this background.
While recruitment within operations in 2012 was dominated by the need to comply with Dodd Frank, we saw that hiring in 2013 was primarily driven by increasing volumes and a better perception of the market in general. Many clients brought on candidates to assist with system conversions (often requiring candidates with specific experience such as Advent Geneva or Wall Street Office), increases in headcount, and backfilling candidates – whereas in previous years, the duties of candidates who resigned have been spread among remaining team members. It was the biggest increase in hiring across the board since pre-2008.
Another notable trend for 2013 was the increase of temporary placements rather than permanent hires. Many employers on both the buy and sell side turned to temporary or temp-to-perm solutions for their hiring strategies. On the sell side, many investment banks that outsourced or relocated teams to other regions over the past few years started hiring temps in the tri-state area as on-site support for these groups. Additionally, openings due to resignations of permanent candidates were quite often replaced with temporary candidates instead of direct permanent hires – and with that, we saw more temp-to-perm conversions in 2013 than in previous years. On the buy side, many smaller firms utilized temp-to-perm strategies for the notion of ‘try before you buy’ to ensure that the candidates they were hiring were of the highest caliber and the best fit for their firm.

Market Sentiment

Overall attitudes and perceptions of the job market have vastly improved. Particularly for those in permanent roles, more and more of these candidates are now looking for new roles because of their desire for personal growth rather than internal instability. While many opportunities were structured off the bat as temp-to-perm, some candidates in permanent positions felt hindered in their attempts to find a new role because they were excluded from these opportunities.
While candidates and clients often have a perception that hiring slows during the summer and the holiday seasons, the hiring activity that took off in January remained surprisingly consistent throughout 2013 and June turned out to be the busiest month of the year.
More than ever since the downturn in 2008, it has become a truly candidate-driven market with more and more candidates receiving multiple offers, counter-offers to encourage them not to leave, and temporary candidates leaving assignments midway through for permanent roles. The employers who understood the need to act quickly on strong candidates during searches benefited from their swiftness. Besides being able to hold onto their preferred candidates, they emphasized the professionalism of their firms and respect for the candidates’ search.

Forecast for 2014

Based on progress made and confidence regained in 2013, and the continuing improvement across most markets, we expect significant advances in the health of the operations and middle office market throughout 2014.
As revenue generation groups grow, so will the infrastructure that supports them and there will be renewed emphasis on hiring highly skilled individuals on a permanent basis to support this extra demand on operations groups.
Areas of expertise in short supply will include client onboarding, client services and relationship management, ‘on the desk’ trading assistants and sales assistants, as well as regulation focused roles. The common theme here is people that businesses want to keep close by and do not fall into the near shoring/offshoring hit list, with a particular emphasis on anything that will help to maintain client relationships, grow revenue or contend with regulation.
Focusing on candidates, resignations will be high in volume throughout 2014 and we are back to a culture of multiple offers for the best people. Bonus time will be a catalyst for this and businesses will need to react and move quickly in order to retain or secure the best talent.
Time at market for good candidates will be greatly reduced – with a narrow window of opportunity to interview and offer than we have seen through the past 12 months. Employers that understand this and react accordingly will be able to secure the best people.
Find out more about our market coverage, or get in touch with Steve Harrison for more information about our financial services recruitment capabilities.
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