20 Years. Wow, 20 Years! This month I celebrate that I have been recruiting the Operations and Middle Office world for 20 years.

Recruitment is a challenging job. It requires persistence, thick skin, and determination. But nothing beats a good honest day’s work, enthusiasm, and a smile. The cornerstones of how I have lived and breathed my career to date, and how I train others to embrace the hurdles and challenges thrown at you daily. People come from all different walks of life and backgrounds, have unique desires; by being able to give everyone a chance, and to just be honest and try for them, then hopefully your reputation will be positive.

My recruitment journey started following the devastation of 9/11, when made redundant from JP Morgan and had to find my own job ringing around my counterparts and contacting companies directly. A former manager rang me and asked if I wanted to do it for other people as a recruiter. The rest is history. To be a success, you must be able to navigate the ever changing landscape that recruitment throws at you.

During my time I have seen many things. Good and Bad. Smartphones, Social Media, Emojis/Memes, GPS, and Wi-Fi have become prominent. No one watches live tv and streams what they want to watch. Climate change is real, with people buying electric cars and recycling more. Not forgetting Boris telling us to stay home for the best part of two years whilst a pandemic swept the globe.

We are now living in a financial services world where we see computers trading the markets. FinTech firms are more trusted than high street banks. Crypto currencies now exist. We are almost living in a cashless environment. However, nothing will ever compare to recruiting during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Those were the darkest of days, yet I still managed to produce successful high achieving recruitment solutions whilst others struggled. Those times really contributed to deciphering what is needed to be a proven and tenured industry recruiter.

Maintaining relationships is of paramount importance, whether you are a client, candidate, or vendor, and you must treat each person you meet with respect. You will never know when you will need to reengage with them again, and it should then be accommodating.

Throughout the years I have met thousands of people, got to know them, and tried my very bet to make sure I have done everything I can to help. I have seen careers blossom, watch people become well trained, seen many counterparts get married and start families, and proud to have assisted hundreds of businesses and thousands of job seekers with their employment needs. I have worked with some incredibly talented recruiters, supported many inspirational leaders, made lots of friends, suffered with many hangovers, and have some rather hilarious and sometimes flabbergasting recruitment stories to tell.

Without you all, I could not have had the amount of success I have achieved. Whilst I am yet to see England win a major footballing championship or my golf game reach single figure handicap, I am however proudly married with 2 beautiful daughters, and the owner of one of the go-to names in Financial Services Recruitment. I am so proud to say I am the owner of CassonX and how we have built its strong market perception.

Thank you to everyone who has made the last 20 years so enjoyable.

Working Conditions are changing. Again.

I have been reminiscing on my tenured experience of recruiting into Financial Services. In particular the buzz of the City of London for 5 days a week.

It was only a few years back where one of the most important parts of going to work was to build face time with peers and seniors, to help credibility with career advancements and enhancing camaraderie. Not forgetting the fun factor too. It’s crazy to think that this was almost eradicated when COVID descended upon us.

Times have changed, we are now in a huge transition with working conditions, taking our journey back to pre-COVID times.

We are finding that remote roles are almost extinct, that’s for sure. Most firms are still adopting a 3/2 or 4/1 routine, however, there is a surge in companies now insisting on 5 days in the office, and is becoming normal again.

We get lots of candidates coming to us because their companies are enforcing 5 days in the office, and justified with lots of research out there that proves there is less productivity with companies that adopt weekly WFH arrangements. Employees have become accustomed to the new routine of it all – less commuting time and saving money on commuter costs, and yes, being able to take delivery on that all important item you need.

What I find flabbergasting is that we still get job applications of recent graduates who still want to work fully remote, with no idea of what the City used to be like, and expect to be rewarded and have impatient desires for career advancements

My team here at CassonX have seen that many companies now want to do face to face interviews again, not exclusively video, and certainly with those who have a 4/1 or 5 day in office week policy.

Fast forward 3 years, I think everyone will be back to 5 days in office, except for the much larger firms who want to save on office space, and can have more processing type of roles that can be done at home without supervision.

And just to think, 10 years ago I was reminiscing of working in the City where there was open outcry stock markets, and not just seeing it on Trading Places or The Wolf of Wall Street.

I wonder what I will be reminiscing on in 10 years to come…

Candidates who fall into the 1 to 4 years’ of experience bracket have always been the most in demand type of profile recruiters are asked to find.

I have recruited during a couple of recessions, including the turmoil of the financial crisis post 2009, and I can honestly say that in my 18 year career specialising in Operations and Middle Office recruitment, the current market for these types of less experienced hires is one of the hardest and most challenging I have witnessed.

The main issue that we are facing is that most companies are only just starting to run graduate recruitment scheme, potentially the first since the summer of 2019, which consequently means that there is a distinct lack of individuals who fall in the 0 to 3 years’ experience bracket. Whilst CassonX has been able to find those who have that level of experience for many companies, because of the sheer demand for this talent, it means that they are commanding salaries that are indicative of those who traditionally have between 4 and 7 years’ experience. It also means that actively searching candidates have a plethora of job opportunities to choose from, with most of these individuals not wanting to just do the same job in a company just for a little bit more money. This has been the typical hiring strategy for many years. Consider that a lot of businesses will give them the chance to move into roles with an opportunity to develop and learn/do more, deemed more of an “exciting” opportunity than the traditional entry level Operations where they might have trained.

Very intriguingly, in most instances where the lucky few have managed to secure a role within Operations over the last couple of years, their working career dictates that they haven’t even been into the office five days a week and only ever experienced hybrid working conditions. Trying to attract this junior talent is very challenging, so the knock on effect mean that those with 4 to 7 years’ experience are the most inexperienced people that most employers can find available, and making that level of experience very demanding and competitive too. Candidates are demanding substantially more when moving for the same type of role. As example, candidates aren’t moving for a standard 4/5% increase, they are able to command £10,000 pay rises with probably rounding it up to the next £5,000 marker. And most companies are willing to pay it to attract the talent they want and be competitive.

Trying to educate some potential employers about this current climate and market conditions has been the hardest part of our role as a trusted recruitment partner, especially if they haven’t had to hire for a period of time and seen this recruitment spike. It is also worth highlighting there has be a ton of hiring in the Operations market in the last 6 months, and concequently many previously available candidates are now not available having secured roles. Realistically, there are certainly no large pools of good candidates sitting at home unemployed given the sheer volumes of roles we have seen.

It’s not only enticing that is very difficult, especially if companies can’t offer video style interviews and insist on face to face interviews, but also companies are really struggling with retaining their staff also. I am starting to experience many of my clients talking to me about offering retention incentives and other creative ways they are trying to keep their staff from having their heads turned. Especially as the cost of living has substantially increased this year too. The best advice I have given everyone considering a retention bonus is to make sure that this is on top of what they are already doing, and not, as example, as a substitute to a bonus they are receiving. It is becoming lot more standard in the industry that those working in Operations have a 3 months’ notice period as standard also. Unfortunately this does not fend off interest from other firms though.

Only 3 years ago I recall talking to businesses about people who wanted to only work 3 days in the office, and this was almost laughable. Because of the recent pandemic, the hybrid working model has now become a normality. Can you believe that candidates are now looking for even more flexibility than that! Especially when this is only what they have experienced hybrid conditions with their careers so far.

CassonX have really struggled sourcing talent for opportunities with companies where they want their employees in the office five days a week, or even host interviews in a face-to-face capacity. This is deemed much less favourable and given the huge amount of opportunities available to candidates, they have quite bluntly rejected the chance to even meet with them given the variety of options available. Unbelievably, some candidates are now demanding a chance to work from home at every single day of the week, which is not something CassonX agrees with for many reasons – especially for building camaraderie, but is showcasing and indicative of the new working conditions in the modern world that we are working towards.

We are also now passed the period where people are “lucky to still have a job”, and if an employee hasn’t been rewarded with pay rises or bonuses, then I can almost guarantee they will be looking for a new role, after committing and remaining loyal during this abnormal pandemic period. Even if they aren’t actively looking, then given the aggressive marketing strategies available on social media platforms, and of course LinkedIn, then I can guarantee they would have received communication from at least one recruiter at some stage offering a golden carrot to leave.

It is very much a candidate lead market at the moment, please do consider how the market has changed over the last year before hiring talent at this level. 

CassonX are very happy to discuss any of this information with those that are looking to hire talent, and how best to be successful in this climate.