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

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.

On this Valentine’s Day, there is not much point in analysing relationships from a purely scientific point of view. There are not many people that fall in love only if all their boxes are “ticked.”

The nature of relationships is such that there is so much more involved than basic (logical or illogical) compatibility. There is an animal magnetism that is often unexplainable, a mutual understanding that goes far beyond any common beliefs, and a naturalness in their company that starts from the moment your eyes meet theirs. Well, there are a thousand variations on this theme, but you get the idea….

The same thinking could equally be applied to your career.

Thinking about your current job – are all your boxes ticked? I doubt it. Do you enjoy it? Possibly. Do you need every box to be ticked to love it? Absolutely not

A job is something that grows on you – you can learn to love it. Your relationship with your job is a lot more complex than a simple list of preferences. What you put in equates to what you get out – passion and determination are key ingredients for a love affair with your career.

Therefore, as the economy gets better, and more people start to think about making some strategic moves, it is worth bearing in mind that there is no perfect match for your next step either. When a company meets a candidate at interview, it will be extremely rare that they will meet every requirement. When a candidate considers their options of which company to join and which role to take, there will have to be certain compromises.

The more flexible you are initially, the more interesting possibilities open up. Companies could take a chance on seeing those candidates who aren’t perfect on paper – they may have that special something when you meet them. Candidates might choose to go to an interview that on paper might not seem ideal, only to understand that it was exactly the challenge that they were looking for.

This concept also applies to internal projects and change in job scope. Everyone enjoys being confident in what they are doing, but sometimes a change can bring out a new aspect to your abilities. It may not seem like a logical move to start with, but if you welcome the new activity with open arms, more often than not you will be adding a new string to your bow.

Everyone has career goals – that is very healthy. You might want to be a Sales Director one day, but there is no set path to get there. If you are flexible about your journey, then you are likely to become a far more rounded candidate. If, on the other hand, you only take on the projects and roles that are on your “list”, you will miss out on an awful lot of learning.

With the introduction of technology, the world of work is changing rapidly for many. New boxes to be “ticked” are appearing every day. Be open to as many new experiences as possible, and your career will undoubtedly benefit.

Your dream career might not quite be what you expected, but you will have every chance of getting there if you are more flexible in your expectations.