As our leader James Manders celebrates 20 years as a specialist recruiter in the Financial Services sector, he was asked to share his thoughts and guidance in a series of interviews with the wonderful team at eFinancial careers, as part of their Talent Conversation series.

It goes without saying that James has seen a lot in the last 20 years, and he is immensely proud to be a trusted partner with many candidates, clients, service providers, and vendors, and loves talking about his market knowledge and experiences throughout his tenure.

Should you wish to review these talent conversations, then please see below links:

Mastering salary negotiations in 2024: https://vimeo.com/917965752

Navigating the impact of hybrid working: https://vimeo.com/917965537

The early careers dilemma; challenges & solutions in today’s job market: https://vimeo.com/917965456

Exploring in-house vs. recruiter hiring teams: https://vimeo.com/917965291



Please do take the time to review our other blogs, market intelligence, advice, and all things recruitment in the Resources section of our website

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.

We are approaching that time of year, where the Financial Services recruitment market springs into life. Largely because it is bonus season for many institutions, and that starts the merry-go-round of individuals who have waited for their financial reward to hit their bank account, before handing in their notice.

Here at CassonX, we are proud to say that the start to 2024 has seen substantial job flow, in hindsight where clients are preparing for the above-mentioned eventuality. However, many candidates do not know how to proactively plan and execute a thorough search to make sure they are obtaining the most suitable opportunity available.

First, should you have a “significant other” in your life, take the time to discuss this with them, and understand why it is you are looking to move roles. Decipher what it is that you are lacking in your current opportunity, and how a new role can satisfy anything absent. The most common drivers for wanting a new opportunity are the role itself, a lack of learning, your leader, team / culture, the company, or even renumeration.

Then take the time to make sure that your CV is ready. Even if it is a starting point, having this ready will get you thinking about what it is that you know, capable of, and being able to explain how you go about your day-to-day responsibilities. Remember to include your contact details, typically a mobile number and personal email address.

Also, make sure your Linked In profile is up to date. You can even adjust settings to say you are “actively looking for work” but, be warned(!), this will announce your status to all your network and connections. Regardless, many institutions now have sophisticated internal hiring teams that not only advertise roles on Linked In, but also do searches for relevant profiles, and with an updated Linked In profile you are then more readily identifiable.

Take the time to research and contact relevant staffing firms and create a partnership with recruiters who specialise in your area of expertise. As example, there are a handful of Operations recruiters in the market, but most specialise in an industry or specific role. Here at CassonX, we are London’s Only Specialist Operations and Middle Office recruitment firm, and if you are an Operations or Middle Office specialist then we would love to hear from you so we can help identify a relevant opportunity across the whole spectrum of industries and sectors that our market has to offer.  

There are many portals and career websites, like efinancialcareers as example, where we recommend you create a profile, search opportunities, and even be added to their databased for recruiters and organisations to find you. It is also recommended that you do the same for specific companies that you want to work for. Nearly every company has a careers section on their website, or an ability to share your CV and cover letter at least. You can showcase your interest directly with that organisation, and sometimes set up relevant passive notifications of opportunities that may arise. This is a CassonX Top Tip because in fact it eliminates any agency spend for the firm but offers a huge advantage as it flatters said company with your direct interest.

Don’t forget to talk to current and previous colleagues for any hints, tips, and recommendations for your search, but to also see if they can help identify any institutions or opportunities that could be deemed appropriate. Even in the firm they are currently working for as example.

Most importantly, keep a log of all your searches. Make a note of the firms you have contacted directly and introduced to by friends or recruiters too. Keep a progress report of all potential opportunities so you can timely and respectfully follow up, but also to make sure that you are not duplicating any applications also. There is nothing worse than a company or hiring manager receiving your CV multiple times. In fact, this could look rather detrimental – so make sure your CV is submitted to a role you are genuinely interested in, and that is also suitable to your skillset, because with some organisations you could only get one chance to be considered with them within a specific timeframe.

For a tailored search, please do reach out to our talented, enthusiastic, and experienced team of Operations and Middle Office recruiters.

You can find more details of some of our open vacancies, who CassonX are, and ability to contact us on our website.

Last year witnessed a significant surge in hiring across our specialised recruitment market. In 2023, attrition rates slowed, companies were focused on retention of important team members, acknowledging the challenges of attracting talented individuals who can handle the demands of an Operations role within Capital Markets. It was a busy start to the year for Senior level hires, Q1 and Q2 is where the higher volume of roles at Director level (and above) came to market, ‘BAU’ hires have been more active throughout the year. There has been a focus from hiring managers on finding product specialists, largely with a view of automation in mind, this has driven the need for specialist recruiters to step-in as LinkedIn/direct advertisements are often failing to return suitable profiles.

Candidates with under 3 years’ experience are still the most requested profiles. A desire to attract talent with Excel VBA or Python skills is becoming increasingly popular, making this hire incredibly difficult, with demand showing a noticeable increase in salaries and total remuneration. I believe this has resulted in making this end of the market lack value, as demand is outstripping the supply. We still have to remind many firms that few graduate schemes were run in 2020 and 2021, which has impacted the candidate market at this level. The rising cost of living has also nudged potential candidates, across all degrees of competence, toward seeking new roles with better packages.

Salaries have seen an increase across all areas, albeit the difference wasn’t as significant as that seen through 2022. The most noticeable area of change this year has been within Controls and Transaction Reporting, where there has been high demand for candidates with broad regulatory scope, strong reporting coverage and an ability to mitigate potential risk within a standard BAU role. We have placed candidates with 2-3 years’ experience on salaries in the £70,000 – £80,000 with many not entertaining a conversation regarding a potential move without seeing a minimum of £10,000 salary increase. The contract market has been busier for FTC (vs PAYE), although many companies have struggled to find candidates quickly, this is often as the salary is reflective to match a permanent member of staff, and not incorporating the added risk of the incumbent taking on a contract position.

It is worth noting that working conditions are changing. We are seeing many companies now moving from a 3&2 hybrid working model, and now implementing at least a 4&1 or more noticeably a 5-day onsite working environment again. We get many candidates on a weekly basis, who have become accustomed to the hybrid model, now approaching us for a new role as their companies are enforcing a non-hybrid model. Largely because it is realised that employees do a lot of non-work-related things during the working hours and consequently distracts from hitting targets and cut-offs as example.

More companies are also holding face-to-face interviews instead of video, and this is why some recruitment processes have slowed to accommodate suitable interview times outside of standard working hours. Many companies are now enforcing a 3-month notice period across Operations staff.

We are delighted to let you know that CassonX has produced its annual salary and total compensation survey for the Capital Markets sector and separates the detail via role type and experience levels. Should you wish to see a copy then please go to our contact page, click on client@cassonx.com, select salary benchmarking and fill in your details accordingly. We will be happy to send you a copy via email, or even catch up over a coffee or lunch to discuss further.

Last year we declared that there were astronomic levels of hiring across our specialist recruitment market, and certainly considering the market resurgences and volatility following the COVID-19 pandemic. 2023 has not slowed, yet the industry now appreciates that the ability to attract talented individuals who can cope with the demands of working in an Operations type role in a hedge fund is challenging. Especially when considering that their is a lack of suitable candidates available following the aggressive hiring that has taken place in 2021 and 2022. What is clear is that whilst this all understood, expectations of hiring managers have also risen too, and where many have tried to hire directly, they have returned to using the services of us skilled recruiters because as example, Linked In is just not returning suitable profiles and causing a lot of administration of unsuitable applicants.

The buyside is still competing for the best talent, with strong education and Excel VBA or Python skills still top of the agenda. We still have to remind many firms that no graduate schemes were run in 2020 and 2021, making the identification of a candidate with 2-3 years’ experience almost an impossible task, and when identified, many have already found new careers. With the consequential increase in demand for candidates with under 2 years’ experience, it is obvious that those salaries and total remunerations have increased, not also forgetting that cost of living has influenced potential candidates to look for a new role so they can earn more to pay for their increased bills, and making the very junior market lack value because demand is outstripping the supply. More details of these experiences can be found by reading this short blog: https://cassonx.com/the-difficulties-with-hiring-a-less-experienced-operations-or-middle-office-candidate-in-the-current-market/

It is also worth notice that working conditions are changing. We are seeing many companies now moving from a 3&2 hybrid working model, and now implementing at least a 4&1 or more noticeably a 5-day onsite working environment again. We get many candidates on a weekly basis, who have become accustomed to the hybrid model, now approaching us for a new role as their companies are enforcing a non-hybrid model. Largely because it is realised that employees do a lot of non-work-related things during the working hours and consequently distracts from hitting targets and cut-offs as example. Not forgetting the reduction of camaraderie in the workplace too.

More companies are also holding face-to-face interviews instead of video, and this is why some recruitment processes have slowed to accommodate suitable interview times outside of standard working hours. Can you also believe that whilst three months’ notice periods are deemed “normal”, some hedge funds are now enforcing six months’ notice period to their Operations staff! Thankfully, we are seeing more hedge funds now starting to give opportunities to those coming from Investment Banks again, especially those who have worked in technical Prime Brokerage type role.

We are delighted to let you know that CassonX has produced its annual salary and total compensation survey for the Hedge Fund sector and separates the detail via company size and type of role too. Should you wish to see a copy then please go to our contact page, click on client@cassonx.com, select salary benchmarking and fill in your details accordingly. We will be happy to send you a copy via email, or even catch up over a coffee or lunch to discuss further.

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.

There are three main qualities you need to have to succeed in a job in the City: a corporate mentality, determination and a strong work ethic.

Having a corporate mentality is very important if you want to succeed in this environment. Many people come to work in the City because they want to earn significantly more money, but you have to appreciate that you are working for a conglomerate and that, fundamentally, thriving in that environment takes the right kind of individual coupled with the right attitude.

The City is renowned for hiring the crème de la crème of the market – and indeed that’s the way it should be. To get there, having the determination to succeed should go hand in hand with also having the right work ethic.

To be better than everyone else in the City, you have to be relentless.

You have to try your best and make sure that you surround yourself with good people. You are only as good as the people around you, and having a good boss who you believe in is crucial. 

The most important lesson I have learnt over the years is: look after yourself.

To do this, work with a manager who will give you clear and measurable goals that are in line with your expectations.

The best piece of advice I could offer to anyone who wants to work in the City is: don’t try and run before you can walk.

It is highly unlikely that you will land your dream role straight away, so the first job that you have in the City is not the job you’re going to be doing forever. Whilst many people want to land the perfect role immediately, sometimes to achieve your goals you have to do things you don’t really want to do to get there, especially when you’re starting out.

When trying to get a job in the City, it’s really important to ensure that you can clearly communicate why you should be hired above other people.  

Competition is fierce. What are your unique selling points? What it is that makes you stand out when hiring managers are looking through countless CVs? 

Fundamentally, the City is a great place to work, and the financial rewards can be great. 

People who work in the City are paid, on average, 40% more than someone doing a similar role outside of London. However, in order to get here, you need to be at the top of your game. The things that will make you stand out are your personal traits and your ability to you fit into a firm’s culture. So if you want to get a job in the City, don’t be disheartened if you do really well in the interview, but then get feedback that says they don’t think you’ll fit into the team. You have to trust that those managers are making their decisions based on the current make up of their environment. Keep going at it, don’t give up, and do things that other people are not doing. David Beckham didn’t become the best free kick taker by just training with his team mates and kicking a ball all day – it was because he used to do all that work and then stay behind after training every single day to practice 100 free kicks. You need to be doing that.