Job Watch: Banking and finance

The banking and finance sector has played witness to the highs and the lows of the UK economy in recent years, but what is the market like for lawyers working in this sector in 2013?

“We’ve seen a significant upturn in the banking and finance legal market recently,” comments James Franklin, a manager at Robert Walters. “This is a product of new recruitment budgets being set, particularly within US firms, whose budgets typically run January to December, new year positivity and the fact that some UK firms did not come to market last year so natural attrition means they must do so now.”

An influx of regulation in recent months has also altered demand for certain expertise and may present new opportunities, argues Michael Page’s Jonathan Firth.

“Derivatives remain relatively buoyant, but with the decreased appetite for risk and debt plus a sharp increase in the level of regulation including the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the European Market Infrastructure Regulation and the revised Markets in Financial Instruments directive, demand for specific skill sets is likely to shift,” Firth explains.

Although things are looking up in terms of recruiting levels there is a discrepancy between supply and demand, notes Paul Turner, a director at Garfield Robbins.

“Unlike with some other practice areas we are finding that candidate scarcity is prominent,” he says. “It’s quite difficult to find good candidates interested in looking at a job move. That said, those we do find are in demand, and firms are keen to interview them.”

The in-house market had a particularly difficult time last year, says Ogetay Akman, a manager for in-house legal financial services recruitment at Robert Walters.

“The situation was difficult in 2012 in terms of recruitment in both the sell-side and buy-side markets, with hires only being approved if they were seen as business-critical and in part sponsored financially by the business, with most banks implementing a replacement-only policy,” Akman comments.

“Some banks are continuing to recruit on an interim or fixed-term contract basis as they struggle to obtain permanent headcount approval,” highlights Oliver Popham, a senior consultant at Laurence Simons.

As a result, Popham stresses that the in-house market remains a highly competitive playing field.

“There continues to be a big pool of highly skilled banking and finance layers seeking to make the move from private practice to in-house positions,” he says. “This means the banks, when recruiting, are in a strong position, but it remains a highly competitive process for candidates without in-house experience.”

“Recruitment in the buy-side part of the market remains most resilient,” adds Akman. “In-house legal teams in this sector are still at a relatively embryonic phase of their life cycle.

“As a result, many firms are looking to grow their teams with an additional junior- to mid-level lawyer.”