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"Banks are desperate. There's a shortage of talented people"

Where is the pent-up hiring demand in the front office of investment banks after the first quarter of 2022? If you've been paying attention it will come as little surprise that the activity is mostly on rates and FX desks.

Deutsche Bank said today that revenues from rates trading, FX trading and emerging markets trading were "significantly" up in the first quarter of this year. JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, UBS, and Citi highlighted a similar trend. Only Credit Suisse seemed to have a bad quarter in macro (citing lower revenues in Turkish FX and emerging markets losses relating to Ukraine). Mostly, the pattern was clear: macro desks had a good quarter; credit desks did not. 

After a few fallow years, headhunters serving macro desks say strong revenues are feeding through to hiring. "There's a lot happening, the numbers aren't massive, but desks are short-staffed," says one headhunter who fills rates roles in London and New York. "Banks are desperate. There's a shortage of talented people."

The demand for macro trading talent comes as central banks espouse quantitative tightening and as energy prices impact inflation and exchange rates. Banks are hiring, and so are hedge funds. Brevan Howard alone has increased its roster of portfolio managers from 30 to 100 people since 2019, and continues to pick off talented traders from banks like Credit Suisse. Verition Fund Management, a New York-based multi-strategy fund, has added over 100 people (albeit not just in macro) since the start of the pandemic. 

One government trader says hiring interest has been strong as banks have sought to upgrade after poor trading performance in 2021, and that the move to hedge funds and to the buy-side and electronic trading firms has sapped the pool of talent. "It's much more fun working here," says one trader who recently moved to a fund. "They want risk- takers with balls of steel who can make good money."

As the rates cycle turns, headhunters say demand is shifting away from salespeople who can work with corporates to people who can work with institutions. "For the last couple of years, all the hiring activity was corporate focused. We're now seeing a lot more interest in people who can cover hedge funds and asset managers," says one. "The trouble is there aren't many people left to take."

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Photo by Adryan RA on Unsplash



AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Fi
    1 May 2022

    That's a lot of baloney! Must be written from trading candidates or meat sellers (aka head hunters side).
    I work more than decade in the city with strategic financial roles on group level and never seen such tight squeeze in finance and accounting like those days.
    Majority so called roles in banking are in front desk and tech side.If you are accountant, finance professional you will soon realise that most processes have been outsourced to Poland, India etc leaving just a handful roles in your specialisation.Teams which were before Brexit 2-3 larger have been consolidated.They never expend and if any (structure of openings at citi/UBS/Barclays/HSBC/Jp Morgan confirms that) looking those are 1:1 replacements only.People in my back-office finance roles are too cautious and uncertain to leave their roles.
    So called Fintech or unsecured startups are require totally different as not as banking regulatory narrowed experience.
    It is easier to become a generic headhunter without industry background, without CIPD or anything, just a candidates seller than a banker or finance professional earning to be believe 2x less than those selling roles, with much higher entry point.
    I have stopped counting how many of my colleagues decided to move to Chester(main offshoring in U.K. for Bank of America, HSBC) or Knusford (Barclays etc) as numbers previously Senior London’s roles are being relocated.
    Morgan Stanley moved most its finance to Scotland or Hungary.HSBC has 10x more mid level openings in finance advertised in small Cracow in Poland.I can carry on how different this market looks like for anyone outside front desk and tech/IT. Those aren’t favourable changes as London becomes investment, money laundering hub not finance centre it was years before!

  • Hm
    29 April 2022

    Getting a W2 is overrated. I left NYC and Wall street early 2020, went rural living and started a business. No matter how in demand my skills are or how hard these recruiters keep trying, I will not be coming back to a corporate desk job. Banks and Big Tech are traps, not falling for that crap again.

  • as
    asif nadeem
    27 April 2022

    hi sara, which market is more hungary for skilled bankers

  • pb
    27 April 2022

    A couple issues. Burnout is always a problem. But another one is self imposed - age discrimination. A friend in his 50's at BOA, where he says management is terrible, tells me that in his job search he now frequently learns or figures out that some firm won't hire him because of his age. Now I'm in my 60's and have had the same experience. HR screenings with kids just out of college. Online job applications that require you to put in a date when you graduated high school and college.

    Another idiotic one. ICE and other firms or exchanges include salary questions or ranges. Put in the wrong amount, or pick the wrong range out of a few dozen, and you are eliminated.

    Some of the problems are with hiring managers or HR people who only want young candidates. Others are with HR groups that don't care so much about hiring, but rather whittling down the number of candidates they need to review, and in so doing manage to eliminate many of the good candidates. Also, super long hiring processes. Companies that force people back to the office regardless of need. You can argue, for instance, that traders should be on the floor. Maybe. But many other positions actually do better with WFH or hybrid. And as noted earlier, burnout. And in many cases, management by exception, management by bullying and the like. Super top down management style. Moving jobs from Manhattan to places like Purchase, areas that are often too expensive for most staff, or way out of commuting range. Imagine you live on Staten Island or Brooklyn, Queens or Long Island, and your job is moved to Purchase or White Plains because that's where senior management lives. A Japanese bank did that and lost a lot of employees - and both HR and management thought it was funny.

    When you look at how hard it is for restaurants and stores to get enough staff, then consider what is involved in getting smart, capable mid level people for complex jobs. Pay them poorly, treat them like dirt, squeeze them into tight, unhealthy spaces, give them underequipped out of date PCs, long hours and nasty managers - how do you think you are going to keep them and have enough staff?

    How good management is, how well you treat and pay your employees, having a well thought out WFH and hybrid setup, all that and more has a huge influence on whether you can get staff. And then there's HR - usually an insular world that is clueless and could care less. That needs fixing too!

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