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The world has been turned upside down over the past six months. As news of a virus in China started to hit the headlines last year, no one could possibly have imagined they would spend most of 2020 at home.


Billy Stephenson

Wealth managers have adapted quickly to the so-called new normal, making great efforts to ensure their clients continue to receive the same high levels of service. Investment catch-ups over a screen have seamlessly replaced in-person

meetings, perhaps the only disappointment being the absence of catering’s finest biscuits and coffee. These new ways of working inevitably have implications for hiring.

There’s been a lot of uncertainty but there’s also a future to consider. That means that recruitment has continued since February, but at a lesser level when compared with the previous six months. In short, people have been leaving and

joining, but just not as much. Hiring was down 57 percent across the industry, and departures were down 52 percent.

What are the trends?

If we dig a little further into the data, there are a couple of things we start to see. Firstly, there is absolutely no correlation between a firm’s assets under management (AUM) and whether or not they have been hiring.

Close Brothers ranks 29th in terms of AUM in the UK (according to PAM Insight data) yet was the seventh greatest hirer during lockdown. Six of the top 40 (by AUM) have had more hires than departures, and two of the top 10 hired fewer than seven people in the past six months.

So, if AUM doesn’t seem to be the answer to hiring trends, what could be? We think it’s all down to cash flow.

Those businesses with the strongest balance sheets seem to have been the most active recruiters. They’ve perhaps decided to spend their way out of future uncertainties by making sure they have the best teams available to keep their clients happy and their businesses buoyant.


We’ve also noticed that proportionally, there have been a lot more departures from the bigger banks – more people are

leaving big businesses than these businesses are hiring. But this isn’t just a lockdown trend, we’ve been noticing this for the past year or so.

This potential surplus of candidates suggests that there’s an opportunity for those looking to grow their business as supply overtakes demand and prices start to fall. Previously unattainable candidates may now be in reach.

Stephenson Executive Search is a headhunting firm focusing on the legal and financial services sectors in the UK and international markets.

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