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Recruitment Trends Analysis: Impact of Brexit

  • Banking and finance jobs activity stronger in European centres than London as Brexit approaches, Robert Walters plc analysis shows

  • UK tech sector growing strongly and leading EU, with hubs in the region’s growing three times more strongly than London

  • Trends reflected in record results for Robert Walters plc

Banking and financial services jobs are booming in European centres such as Frankfurt, Paris and Dublin, while in the UK the tech sector is performing more strongly as Brexit approaches, according to a new analysis by professional recruitment firm Robert Waters plc.

The firm’s analysis of trends in global recruitment markets shows that financial services recruitment increased last year in centres such as Frankfurt, Paris and Dublin more strongly than in London.

However, the UK tech sector is growing steadily despite any downward pressure from Brexit on the economy, with job creation in the regions outdoing London.

Robert Walters, CEO of Robert Walters plc, which places people in jobs in sectors including finance, engineering, tech, legal and marketing, and this month posted record results, said: ‘We are seeing something of a “jobs merry-go-round” at present, with our European offices performing more strongly in terms of finance and banking jobs as uncertainty over the outcome of Brexit continues, but the UK doing particularly well in the tech sector.

‘As a truly global firm, with 73 per cent of net fee income now coming from outside the UK, we are well placed to take advantage of the trends we are seeing.’

The trends are reflected in the record results for Robert Walters plc, posted this month. Overall gross profit or net fee income for the company grew 14 percent to £392 million for the full year ended December 31, with Europe posting the strongest growth. The company’s full-year pretax profit rose 21 per cent to £49.1 million. Revenue grew about six per cent to £1.23 billion.

The firm’s analysis shows that the UK continues to be the leading country in Europe in terms of candidates with IT skills, and the number of roles advertised in the tech sector increased by 11 per cent from 2016 to 2018. Tech hubs in the regions are growing at three times the rate of London, with job creation in Manchester up 29 per cent from 2016 to 2018, 22 per cent in Leeds and 20 per cent in Birmingham. This compares to an increase of nine per cent in London over the same period.

Last year, the UK gained more IT talent from abroad than it lost by a margin of ten per cent. Analysts at Robert Walters plc expect job creation in the sector to increase by a further 11 per cent across the UK this year.

James Perry, Associate Director of IT at Robert Walters plc, said: ‘The UK tech sector is continuing to grow strongly and we expect that to continue. It is not one that is overly dependent on supply chains and is a genuinely global sector, so it appears to be largely unaffected by Brexit. 

‘Companies that are going to be successful in the future are those that are investing in tech – AI, robotics, e-commerce and fintech.

‘London has what is probably the best pool of talent in the world in terms of tech and will continue to thrive and lead in this area. However, we are seeing a rebalancing in terms of regional centres such as Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds growing even more strongly in terms of tech jobs, which is a good thing for the economy.

‘There is definitely a candidate shortage in certain areas of tech in London which is helping to drive this trend. But it’s also about costs and new ways of working. 

‘A lot of tech staff do not need to be in the office five days a week, and are operating from home or elsewhere at least some of the time. It has never been easier to set up a base using serviced offices, so businesses are able to be agile and move activity to satellite offices in other parts of the country.’

London continues to have the highest level of banking and financial talent in Europe and second in the world after New York.

However, in 2018 more banking and financial services candidates left London for jobs in other parts of the world than were hired, with an eight per cent deficit overall, the analysis shows.

When compared with European centres, London was losing eight banking and financial services jobs to Europe for every three that were attracted in the other direction. The big winners were Zurich, Frankfurt, Paris, Madrid and Dublin.

The analysis also shows that headcount at the world’s biggest investment and corporate banks grew more strongly last year in Frankfurt (+ ten per cent), Milan (+ eight per cent), Paris (+ six per cent) and Ireland (+ three per cent) than in London (+ two per cent).

In 2018, hiring in London by US and UK banks increased by five per cent respectively, but remained static for European banks and fell by three per cent for Asian banks, the analysis shows.

Only around 1,800 financial services jobs have already been confirmed as leaving London, according to an analysis of publicly disclosed Brexit relocations conducted by the City of London Corporation.

The research, published in November, suggested that between 5,000 and 13,000 City jobs will have moved to the EU by the end of March.

Daniel Collins, Director of Financial Services at Robert Walters, said: ‘Financial services is busy in centres such as Frankfurt and Dublin. In terms of the numbers of jobs that have moved, it is still extremely low when compared to the overall London financial services market.

‘However, we are seeing a decrease in candidate confidence in terms of people actually wanting to move in light of relative uncertainty. We have seen some hiring pauses and we have seen longer timescales in terms of new hires being signed off.

‘There is still a lot of recruitment activity for technology jobs in the banking and financial sector, particularly around information security, machine learning, natural language processing and data engineering. It is in risk management, finance and compliance that we are seeing some roles moving. Institutions need to have a high level of infrastructure ready in case they need to pull the trigger on contingency plans and move activity more quickly.

‘When it comes to Brexit, banks we are talking to have a variety of different contingency plans and they will implement whichever one is necessary. The biggest worry for them is a no deal Brexit.

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