Operarions Market Update - September 2020

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Robert Walters Operations recruitment team brings you the latest financial services market update. The update covers trends across the market, including the impact of Covid-19 on contract hiring trends and how the crisis has reshaped the operations market.

Listen to the full discussion below.


Tom Andrew
Senior Consultant 
Robert Walters


Anneline Klijnsma
Operations - Contract
Robert Walters

E: Tom.Andrew@robertwalters.com
T: 0207 509 8357

E: Anneline.Klijnsma@robertwalters.com
T: 0207 509 8627


Tom Andrew: Hello and welcome to the first ever episode of the Robert Walters – Operations podcast series. You are here with me, Tom Andrew and the queen of contract recruitment; Anneline Klijnsma. We both focus on the Operations space, covering buy and sell sides at a range of companies from large multi-national Investment Banks all the way through to boutique Hedge Funds and Asset Managers. The only difference is that I specialise in the permanent market which means I get to leave all that lovely day-rate admin to Anneline

Today we are going to kick off our new platform with a look back at the last few months in the recruitment world, will try to briefly identify some market trends and hopefully keep it interesting along the way!

Anneline, thanks for coming on! You are a self-proclaimed third culture kid, can you tell our listeners a little about yourself?

Anneline Klijnsma:  A bit about me, before joining Robert Walters, I was doing the cliché travelling and working through Australia after I completed my Master’s degree in Organisational Psychology. I figured I was young, had my degree and I wanted to see the world a bit more. I moved around a lot as a kid and got to live in the coolest countries, but I had never done independent travel like this, so yeah it was an amazing experience. When I came back, I found RW and haven’t looked back since! As you mentioned, I mainly look after the Contract side of things for our Operations team and it’s been great.  

Tom Andrew: How has the government’s furlough scheme affected the contract workforce?

Anneline Klijnsma: I was very happy to hear that our contractors were all working and still are. None of them had been furloughed, and contracts have still been extended and so on, so very pleased about that

The downside of course is that the workload has gone up for a lot of contractors, also as they might be covering the work for permanent employees (though I haven’t seen too much of that)

I’m sure there are plenty of contractors who have been furlough, but we haven’t seen that here

Tom Andrew: When I spoke to you earlier, you did mention there’s a change in temp hiring though. Could you elaborate?

Anneline Klijnsma: Sure, so what I’m seeing is that there is still plenty of temporary recruitment. In the beginning I figured it could go either way in the sense that we would either see a lot of temporary hiring to help out during the pandemic, or that there would be no additional hiring

Obviously in the first few months that were hardly any temp activity, but mid-June, around the time I came back from furlough myself, it picked up a lot

We’ve seen a lot of contract roles and have placed quite a few as well which feels so great. These people weren’t working and knowing we’ve helped people secure a role during a pandemic honestly is great

However, more recently the roles we’ve been seeing are more fixed term contracts than they are daily rate contracts etc. We’ve also been seeing a lot of temp to perm roles as well. The reason for this as well is that a lot of the times if they can’t hire someone permanent outright because of approvals, they’ll hire someone temp to start and then once they get the approvals, take them on from there

Tom Andrew: And how is everything going with IR35?

Anneline Klijnsma: Not going anywhere! It’s still here of course. Last year was obviously a bit manic trying to learn more about it, sort it and make sure everyone was complying, but I think now it’s relatively calm and everyone has a solid understanding of it

We found that many companies have decided to keep the new changes as opposed to going back to their old ways in order to avoid any issues and admin when the new deadline approaches, while others were happy to revert back temporarily. Though I have to say, the majority did stick to the changes, so it’s been an interesting impact on the contracting world. I think for Operations, it’s a little less frustrating than for other areas like Projects or Risk & Compliances

Overall I still have a few webinars I’ll be joining about IR35 to make sure I’m still as well versed in it as I can be

Tom Andrew: What other projects have you been focusing on?          

Anneline Klijnsma: Lately, really been focusing on organising webinars – most recently our Virtual Roundtable on the LIBOR changes coming up. It was definitely interesting, we kept it a small group for mainly Heads of at the moment to discuss action plans and gauge how everyone is feeling for it (and how ready they are). It’s a major change, but seems a lot of regulatory authorities are perhaps a bit blasé about it so I’m keen to see how this progresses

But enough about temp! On to you. Even though we work closely as a team and focus on the same business area, the permanent market is obviously very different to temp.

What has been the impact of COVID on the jobs market?

Tom Andrew: Well obviously, there has been a down turn in the last few months, I myself spent June and July on furlough but comparing April/May to August and the first two weeks of September we can clearly see much higher volumes already across Operations. Whereas over summer we saw relatively few companies with new roles on (and those that did primarily keeping those roles with in house recruitment teams) we are now seeing a much wider range of opportunities across buy and sell side with much more diversity in the types of roles on the market.

Anneline Klijnsma: What types of roles have been the highest volume market segment over the last few months?

Tom Andrew: There have been three major drivers in 2020 so far on the back of some major regulatory changes; SFTR, CSDR and LIBOR changes.

Pre COVID in Q1 it was the Central Securities Depositary Regulation that was driving a real wave of onshoring Settlements functions again in one of the most sweeping pieces of regulation to hit the market in years, mandatory buy-ins coupled with hefty fines for excessive breaks made Settlements professionals into a very valuable commodity.

More recently the Transaction Reporting space has been a constant source of opportunity for right-minded individuals and the launch of Securities Financing Transaction Regulation has served to keep demand high in both permanent and temporary markets on top of the usual EMIR and MIFID volumes at this time of year the regulatory space continues to need fresh talent at all levels.

At you mentioned previously the LIBOR changes are still very much in project phase (which is a little worrying with the expected go live NEXT YEAR and is almost the forgotten change of 2020 with senior management and the C-suite occupied with CSDR/SFTR and COVID. It is a regulatory change that is probably not getting the recognition it deserves and almost just being viewed as a “rate change” than anything else but we are seeing constant volumes in the Loans environment and expect those volumes to continue well into 2021.

Anneline Klijnsma: Client base volumes?

Tom Andrew: For the most part the Summer months were dominated by a small number of large banks leaning on their direct teams to handle a reasonably high volume of resourcing (generally towards the junior end, AVP and below) but we are starting to see more and more volume from the Mid-cap banks and interestingly the mid-sized asset & investment managers rather than the traditional high volume client bases. Not to mention the fact that some smaller boutiques are starting to get budgetary sign off as confidence grows in the “new normal”.

Anneline Klijnsma: And what is the “new normal”?

Tom Andrew: Honestly some of the conversations we have had over the last few months have been very encouraging, some managers who may have been seen as traditionally quite “old school” have really embraced their teams working more flexibly. There was certainly an adjustment window early on but on the whole there are more success stories than failures and going forward it is hard to see a full 5 day in office working week returning to the city for a lot of operational roles. Certainly there will be more expectation from the candidate base that they will be allowed a greater degree of work/life flexibility than they experienced before COVID and those companies who are not able to adapt may well miss out on top talent because of it.

Anneline Klijnsma: Yeah I agree. And that’s something I’ve been seeing as well. I think in terms of how companies are handling COVID it’s been such a mix, but most companies have been changing their ways which is interesting to see.

For us, I think it’s been really great to see how Robert Walters Group has been handling it. I feel like I’ve really been heard, really been taken care of and like we’re all valuable to the firm. Our health and safety has really been a priority, and I honestly can’t say a bad thing about we’ve been treated during this pandemic.

I also know this because when speaking to candidates, you know, some are clearly not being taken care of by their employers and feel dispensable, which is also a main reason they’re looking. It’s been a major factor for some people in their search, even if they love their teams and jobs, they’re not impressed with how their company has been handling this and don’t feel valued.

Tom Andrew: I think you have hit the nail on the head there, the way RW has adapted to the current situation has been impressive. Our teams have embraced the changes to the workplace when it comes to working from home and furlough schemes, have been supported throughout by the senior management and now that we are coming back into office have been really embracing new opportunities and meeting these new challenges head on.

I think the real “team first” ethos of RW has really rung true for the last couple of months and that across Financial Services and beyond we will be well placed to support both the client and candidate base through finding a mix of new approaches coupled with good, old fashioned relationship building, which RW has always been about.

Further to that I think it is fair to say we are expecting (hoping!) for a flood gates opening situation come Q4 / Q1 so there is hope!

Well that is it for the first Ops podcast, if you have any further questions or want to discuss any of the points highlighted in this episode further please do reach out to either one of us at (emails), thanks for listening and we hope you join us next time! 

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