Job Watch: Capital Markets

The fact that Barclays and Lloyds are eyeing up big capital markets transactions begs a big question – are the capital markets finally making a comeback?

According to Anouska Tamony at JLegal, “There’s certainly more confidence and activity than we’ve seen in the market for some time.”

On closer inspection, both debt and equity markets appear to have creaked back into action. 

On the equity side, SSQ’s Marc Needoff says the pipeline looks fuller than it has been any time since the Lehman collapse. As firms look to staff all these new mandates, he says that he is expecting to see a flurry of activity over Q3 and Q4.

Ria Aird at Glass Consultancy also reckons that, as a response to the strongest year in the IPO market for some time, “for the first time in years we’re beginning to be instructed on a number of equity capital market roles that are growth led rather than replacements”.

The only thing to pip equity markets to the post is debt. 

Aird says many of her key clients are “crying out for associates” with experience in the area, whether investment-grade or high-yield. It is a trend she expects to continue as international capital markets persist on their upward trajectory.

If you’re job-hunting in the capital markets arena, set your sights at the top of the legal tree. Recruiters agree that the magic circle and leading US firms represent fertile ground for capital markets roles at the moment.

“We tend to see the US firms acting more aggressively in the hope that they can get ahead of the economic curve,” Needoff says, while Aird suggests looking to “large international firms that have historically had good reputations in this area”. 

An exception to this rule are a couple of “strong mid-City firms” that Tamony says are growing their capital markets teams at associate level.

Lawyers at all levels are in demand, but mid-level associates of between two and five years’ PQE are a particular sweet spot. 

Needoff asserts that such lawyers are “able to take their pick of firms” in the current climate.

“That said,” he continues, “due to a dearth of top-quality candidates with the right experience more junior associates, are also being considered for many of these roles, as long as they can demonstrate consistently good experience.”

While there are opportunities available across the capital markets spectrum at the moment, US-qualified lawyers are finding themselves particularly in demand.

“The recent growth in popularity of high-yield bonds as a way to raise capital has led to US-qualified associates with this specialism being particularly sought-after,” Aird adds – and not just at US firms, but at UK ones too. 

“Interestingly,” she concludes, “capital markets – both equity and debt – is an area in which US-qualified associates may well have even more choice than their UK-qualified counterparts.”