"The market is full of middle-aged white heterosexual male bankers who can't find new jobs"
If you're trying to find a new banking job right now, you may need to be patient. In some areas (eg. data and digital transformation jobs, macro trading) hiring is still pretty vibrant. In other areas, it's not. - In other areas, it's...strange.
"The market is kinda weird right now," says one London headhunter who specializes in M&A hires. "It'a a phony war. Banks will say they're hiring and that things are going on, but in M&A there are no fees to carry over from last year and any deals done in the second half of this year may not have an impact, so the feeling is that 2023 will also be bad. There are plenty of conversations and banks are keen to upgrade, but not much hiring is actually happening."
As banks continue to keep a grip on costs while talking up the possibility of a second half rebound in investment banking fees, the emphasis is on "selective" recruitment above all. At Barclays, for example, hiring is still happening in investment banking, but has been downgraded from last year's enthusiastic hiring at "all levels" to recruiting for select areas like technology and healthcare banking.
Part of the problem is that some banks - like BofA - have hiring freezes and others - like Rothschild - have said they'll either stop hiring or will take on fewer people. At best, banking headhunters say it's one in one out. At worst, it's twice as bad. "Everyone wants to be headcount neutral or slightly down," says one New York-based equities headhunter. "If you want to hire one person, you'll need to get rid of one - or more often two peope to make that hire possible."
Where does that leave all the people already let go from the likes of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley? In a difficult spot, is one answer. "A lot of these people haven't found new jobs yet," says the NY equities headhunter. "There's a bit of a feeling that there must have been a reason you were let go. It doesn't help that many of these people are white middle aged heterosexual men in a market that's much more conscious of diversity. They're the wrong profile and they're still very expensive."
While many people in this category are angry at being let go and unwilling to compromise, he says it is possible to get rehired. "I tell everyone that, 'Look, you're a white middle aged man, so you either get a job on a lower rung - as a director if you were an MD - or you go to a lower tier bank or a bank that's less concerned about ensuring it employs a diverse set people."
In M&A and investment banking, people are also being advised to be flexible, albeit in less blunt terms. "A lot of people let go in November and December are still looking," says Tom Ragland at search firm Harrison Rush. "I tell people to cast a wide net in terms of institutions and to be open minded. Look outside of traditional finance cities like New York and San Francisco."
The only way of getting back in is to emphasize what you can bring to the table and all the revenues you'll generate to justify your seat, and validate the removal of its incumbent. The head of another search boutique who operates in London and New York, says banks are very interested in upgrading now while business is quiet. "It's like hotels and restaurants that were totally renovated during COVID," he says. "Banks are taking the approach that they will upgrade as much as possible now in preparation for a recovery in Q3 and Q4 this year."
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