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The darkest fears about M&A jobs in 2024

You lost your job in M&A in this year's job cuts. What are the chances that you'll get a new one in 2024? That depends whom you ask.

One associate, who was cut from an M&A team in recent weeks, tells us the job market is better than expected. "I've had some interviews," she says, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There are some surprisingly good positions out there given the market, although no one's really hiring until next year.

Naysayers suggest she's only getting interviewed because she's a woman and because banks remain desperate to diversity their teams. "If you're female, you'll get interviewed," says the head of an M&A recruitment firm. If you're male, not so much.

The head of another London search firm, also speaking anonymously, says it's bad out there and that he fears 2024 could be equally gloomy. "There are two elections, two wars," he says. "People will be glad to see the back of this year, but there's not much hope for change."

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Hiring is still happening, but headhunters say it's mostly about picking people up who are out of the market. Today's news that Evercore has hired Stephen Withnell as a metals and mining banker in Europe loses its panache when you consider that Withnell left Goldman in 2019. The danger is that this year's Credit Suisse refugees will spend next year settling into their new roles and that big hirers like Jefferies and Santander will spend 2024 settling this year's recruits. 

And yet, there are pockets of enthusiasm. Headhunters say juniors are being hired for particular teams like infrastructure (including digital infrastructure), renewables and to some extent healthcare. Andy Pringle, the ever-ebullient head of search firm Circle Square says gaming teams are thriving. Tom Ragland at search firm the Harrison Rush Group in New York, thinks 2024 could surprise on the upside: "The markets wants stability and if rates stay the same or get, cut next year will be better than people think. I would not be surprised if things picked up end of Q1." Barney Mundell, a London M&A headhunter, says "urgent" mandates are already coming in. Teams have been cut to the bone, and it won't take much to restart the recruitment merry-go-round, another recruiter suggests.

And yet, there's also the lurking fear that this downturn isn't like those of the recent past and that jobs might not return. "This isn't like the financial crisis, or the pandemic," says a veteran M&A headhunter. "This is different. Private equity has spent the past decade fuelling rampant deal flow, but at 12+ financing costs, that's disappeared. The volume is just massively, massively off. Next year could be very difficult indeed."

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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