Thinking about a career in the banking sector? Well, there’s never been a better time.
You may be forgiven for thinking that the previous sentence appears a little incongruous in the face of the numerous recent headlines preaching the dire state of this very sector. It’s certainly true that the past 18 months or so have been some of the worst on record for the banks in terms of financial output, radical cutbacks and unprecedented redundancy drives. However, all of these initiatives were implemented in reaction to predictions of a much deeper long-lasting recession – a prediction, I might add, that was never truly fulfilled. In fact, while 2009 pales in comparison to the heady heights of 2007, it has been an exceptional year in its bounce back from the sharp talons of recession, and has presented the banks with a huge opportunity to hire.
Along with the infamous collapse of various banking institutions, there has also been a substantial amount of expansion. We saw Santander (with its investments mostly in Latin America as opposed to North America) buying up the competition; then there was Barclays Capital, using the general lack of bonuses at rival banks to poach top employees. The huge profits posted by the major players during 2009 will dramatically increase the need to recruit over 2010. This is the culmination of various factors, including the huge redundancies announced by many firms followed by their subsequent boost in profits and need to take on more staff. This, combined with the current and predicted bonus payments, will lead to the obligatory game of musical chairs.
The obvious next questions are what positions are becoming available – and where?
Perhaps the best place to start would be with Nomura where, for the first time in its history, it has made more money from its international operations than its domestic business. As Nomura intends to expand its oil and gas operations, accountants with exposure to financial analysis and accounting in this area should be welcomed with open arms. Despite RBS’s ill-timed purchase of ABN Amro, it is actively looking to expand its markets business, and subsequently will need analysts and financially astute staff to support the sales force and traders. Similarly, Morgan Stanley wants to replace the 400 staff it cut or lost during the financial crisis with those who’ll have specific focus on middle office to help the trading floor. Citigroup is looking to replace staff across the board, after having lost as many as 40% of employees in some business lines. Interestingly, many of Citigroup’s lost employees were senior, and there is therefore a clear opportunity for fast progression of junior staff.
The mass recruitment drive will not just be for those already with experience in banking, as Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley and Barclays have all confirmed they will hire more graduates in 2010 than they did last year. Barclays even envisages as much as a 30% annual increase in graduate opportunities.
So, what ever people say about prospects for the banking sector, take it from me – there are plenty of opportunities. It’s just knowing where to look and how to press the employer’s ‘hot buttons’, in both the application process and during the interview.
Josh McDonald, WH Marks Sattin