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The decade from 2005 has been witness to unprecedented change in banking and financial services. How has the City’s employment landscape changed over this decade, not just in terms of raw numbers but also in terms of culture and skills? Has London’s pre-eminence as a global financial centre been threatened by the rise of new markets in the East, particularly Singapore and Hong Kong?

This report brings together robust data from one of the City’s leading financial services recruiters with expert views from those at the sharp end of hiring and shaping the financial services workforce of the future.

Morgan McKinley has been collecting and publishing monthly data that show both the numbers of professionals seeking new roles in the City and numbers of open opportunities.

The London Employment Monitor is now ten years old.


  • From 2005 – 2014, there were a total of 665,306 Financial Services (FS) roles and 1,515,017 professionals seeking roles in London*
  • Number of new roles peaked in 2007 with 112,547 new jobs
  • Number of professionals seeking new roles peaked in 2011
  • Recruitment fell sharply in 2009, with just 46,353 new jobs but 2013 saw the largest drop in the number of new roles at 33,653 – just 30% of the 2007 job number peak
  • The number of professional job seekers was predictably high in 2007 (201,670) but this figure was beaten in 2011 when a spike in those seeking new roles hit a record 203,687
  • Recruitment since 2011, both in numbers of new roles and those seeking them, has not returned to pre-crisis levels. Total numbers of those seeking roles was 111,515 (2014) almost half the peak levels of 2011 and new jobs in 2014 were down 64% on the peak year of 2007, but 21% up on 2013

“It is evident that the last decade has been one of two extremes,” says HakanEnver, Operations Director, Financial Services for Morgan McKinley. “This in-depth review of our data shows us how the financial crisis didn’t just deliver a single blow to hiring activity in 2009, but has also continued to affect both numbers of jobs and those professionals seeking to move during the subsequent period.

“What we don’t necessarily see from the data however, are the seismic shifts in priorities and skills required by employers. Regulation, globalisation and diversity are now changing the shape of the talent being sought and hired.”

The financial crisis and its aftermath

During the period 2008 and 2009, there was a sudden wave of job losses and hiring freezes that brought an end to a decade of continual annual growth in London’s financial services and business services sector, reported to be 6% per annum. It is evident from our data that from as early as 2007, the number of job opportunities available was decreasing. The catalyst for the numbers to fall even further was back in August 2007, when BNP Paribas terminated withdrawals from three hedge funds citing “a complete evaporation of liquidity“. A bubble had formed in the market and with many banks heavily invested in US mortgages, suddenly found themselves at huge risk of loss.  Within weeks, there were the well reported queues outside Northern Rock branches, the first run on a leading UK bank for over 200 years.

Enver says “in April 2009, the G20 summit committed $5 billion of combined stimulus to the global economy. Much of this, along with the various monetary policies within each G20 nation, was the main reason for the global recession to bottom out in 2009. This partly explains why the data shows a rise in job opportunities during that year.  Whilst 2010 had a slight return in confidence, this was short lived, with the job availability declining, and continuing to do so for the following three years.  On the flip side, the number of professionals actively seeking employment from 2009 to 2011 rose. A proportion of this is explained by the number of redundancies made in the market during that time.  In 2013, the CBI employer’s group stated that around 132,000 jobs had been lost in finance and insurance since the downturn began. Six or seven years post-crisis, there continues to be reports of job losses in the City.

“From the moment JP Morgan acquired Bear Stearns for $10 a share in March 2008, through to Lehman’s eventual collapse six months later, the world’s economies would not function the same way again.” continues Enver. “The shifts in the shape of many of our client organisations have continued to impact on the hiring environment, as skills, such as risk and compliance become ascendant, while elsewhere whole teams have been removed.”

In 2008/9, the Treasury injected £37 billion of new capital into Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, Lloyds TSB and HBOS PLC, to avert financial sector collapse. Compliance hiring fluctuated until 2010, when the first wave of new regulations such as Dodd Frank saw hiring steadily increase once again. Further new regulations such as MiFID 2, EMIR, AIFMD and RDR and large anti money laundering sanctions and fines dealt by the regulator and US Treasury’s OCC saw firms’ compliance teams grow to unprecedented levels by 2013 and 2014.

Paul Murphy, director of recruitment, EMEA, at Royal Bank of Canada, says, “There was an overall shrinking and retrenchment in certain market areas – sub-prime, complex derivatives – that happened almost immediately post-Lehman. People who were kept on were simply winding those businesses down. As regulation followed, those able to combine product knowledge with compliance skills were highly – and remain highly – sought after.”

Some jobs simply moved home. “We can see how over this period, there was a migration of roles – especially middle and back office roles – from west to east.  Now, we see those roles moving back from Singapore and Hong Kong to the UK and US as economic recovery gains momentum” says Richie Holliday, chief operations officer, Morgan McKinley, Asia Pacific.

The increasing specialisation that followed the financial crisis, in which banking behemoths sought to become more focused in their activities, has still provided some new opportunities,

Murphy, for example, says that Royal Bank of Canada is now, “moving into sectors that have been de-emphasised by other banks, where our product capability, credit rating and broad client base gives us competitive advantage.”

The changing balance of global economic power has also shifted in this time-frame from west to east, and this has affected client-facing specialisms. “We have seen private wealth management move from its traditional homes in London, Switzerland and New York to China where new wealth is seeking a more sophisticated financial platform,” reports Andrew Evans, chief operations officer, at Morgan McKinley, South Asia. 

Additionally, not all roles are suited to US and European natives keen to take an international assignment. “In China to be successful in private client work, you must be native, a fluent Mandarin speaker, so there is a limited talent pool,” says Evans.

Remuneration and bonuses

Gordon Gecko’s infamous assertion that “Greed is Good” has been widely blamed for fuelling the financial crisis and putting the brakes on bonuses has been a regulatory priority, particularly in Europe.In October, 2008 Gordon Brown declared, “The day of big bonuses is over,” but was he right?

In 2013 the EU passed legislation that would cap bonuses at 100% of salary. The UK has vehemently opposed moves to cap pay, arguing that it will lead to a talent drain and reduce the City’s competitiveness in the global talent battle as rival jurisdictions (New York and Singapore, for example) can pay star performers what they like. Many believe fixed pay will also increase compensation considerably.

According to figures from HM Revenues and Customs, the finance sector (across the UK) paid out £67.6bn in bonuses between 2008/9 and 2012/13. London is still considered the main financial hub of the world. People want to move to London from all over the world, and we see many international professionals with excellent CVs looking to relocate,” says Enver. “The impact of bonus capping so far has not been as dramatic as had originally been expected.”

Despite this, bonuses continue to exercise the media and the public. “Remuneration and salary inflation,” says Enver, “reflects the market of supply and demand. We see professionals who can combine product knowledge with strong regulatory expertise commanding ever-higher remuneration packages. The number of executives who take home six figure bonuses is still relatively small and tends to falsify the overall picture of compensation in the banking sector.”

Banking culture – has it changed?

According to the CCP Research Foundation, between 2009 and 2013 the global banking industry managed to incur £166bn in fines, settlement fees and provisions. Many of the largest fines represented in this figure relate to the underlying causes of the financial crisis itself – sub-prime mortgage backed securities, for example.

But, as Libor rate manipulation and FX market fixing shows, banking culture does not appear to have changed as much as it needs to.

But for all the negative news, those in the driving seat of making hiring decisions, say that culture is changing. “There has been a change in focus at all levels of the people I see,” says Royal Bank of Canada’s Murphy. “Before the financial crisis there was a desire to move upwards as fast as possible. Now the motivation for joining the bank is more about balance sheet strength, our history. Culture is key. Pre-financial crisis, no-one would have asked about the culture of the bank. Now it’s the first question I am asked.”

An increasingly important aspect of culture change is diversity. Dina de Angelo, director, at Pictet, the Swiss private bank, says, “Institutions that have a broad palette of financial services – an investment banking business sitting next to a private client business – still exert a great deal of pressure on women to be able to cope with tricky environments, although this is not the case at Pictet.”

She says women hired for senior positions are quizzed on their ability to cope. “The implication is that women have to adapt, not that the culture or environment will change,” says de Angelo.

For all the difficulties, “diversity has leapt up the hiring agenda,” says Enver. In UK banking and financial services, where diversity is seen as a priority, there continues to be a dearth of suitably qualified women, particularly at senior levels.  There has been a huge drive from a number of the major banks to focus on diversity.”

Morgan Stanley for example, has a wide range of recruiting events some of which are exclusively for women. These are presented in collaboration with the firm’s internal networking groups as well as non-profit partners in the interbank community.

De Angelo comments, “The key rests with each individual woman. I’m a ‘lean in’ person. I prefer to spend my time and energy focusing on what I can do to make a difference because if I make a difference for myself I can make a difference for all the other women in my organisation.”

Murphy sees diversity as an absolute hiring priority too. “We want to see women on all of our shortlists, whatever the role,” he says. “We have been committed to diversity for a long time. We have focused our efforts on bringing high numbers of women into banking at graduate level, but, as with all organisations our efforts now are focused on developing and promoting women through the organisation to create successful role models.

“The chair of our global diversity committee is our CEO – that’s how seriously we take this issue. It’s not a tag-on to HR: it’s a business issue.”

‘We as recruiters recognise the huge value we can and need to add here. We  use our expertise and resources to source talent from multiple channels and this plays a vital part in supporting our clients’ search for an increasingly diverse work force’ says David Leithead, Managing Director of Morgan McKinley, London.

The future

London’s long history of international trade, the strength of its deposits, equity trading and fund management, continues to place it at the forefront of global finance.

Enver says, “London continues to be an attractive place to live and work for high-achieving professionals. Many institutions are committed to growing their presence both domestically and internationally, investing in core and profitable functions.  Banks have gone back to basics, looking at their strengths and building on those, whilst assessing their weaknesses and minimising them.

“Ongoing regulation is helping to make the banking industry a safer place, by ensuring more robust contingency plans are in place.  By holding more capital and a sufficient level of liquid assets, enhancing their risk management systems and reporting financial positions accurately and efficiently, banks hope that are now able to withstand tough shocks to the system and thus limit systemic risk in the market.

“The talent pool required to drive many business units has changed, with strong technical knowledge, deep regulatory awareness and more often than not, a minimum of one European language, being preferred.  Shortly after the crisis, when banks cut back on their graduate hiring, they have since increased their appetite to recruit at this level.

An increase in 2014 in the number of jobs, compared to 2013, clearly suggests a return in confidence to the market, but there still exists some uncertainty as we head into 2015.  The recent crash in oil prices, geo-political risks – particularly Russia/Ukraine, ongoing volatility in the Eurozone (including a potential Grexit), as well as continued cyber threats to the banking industry, are a few concerns that could displace London’s foothold as a leading financial centre.

“Despite this, the last few years have seen unprecedented change in the sector.  Not only has regulation dictated how much of the industry now operates, but we have also seen a dramatic change in the kind of professional our clients see – which we believe will continue to form the hiring landscape over the next decade. Whilst there will always exist some form of outside risk, the industry is now well-advanced on a process of recovery and evolution, and its institutions are much stronger as a result. Therefore, Morgan McKinley predicts a positive outlook for the short to medium terms as hiring returns to levels witnessed in previous years.”


Chart: Professionals seeking new roles in Financial Services, both in and out of employment, London