As the greenshoots emerge after three barren years for jobs, recruiters are talking the markets up and City staff are eager to make a move. Unfortunately, they might have to wait awhile yet. The verdict on 2003 bonuses is, however, more positive. Bonus pools will generally be bigger than last year, and there are, of course, less staff around to share the dosh with. Staff expecting big payouts will, however, mostly be disappointed.
There are certainly more jobs around in the City than at any time in the recent past. Recruiters are busy, although probably not as busy as they would have you believe. Most jobs are still in the unadvertised job market, as firms try to hire without incurring too much in the way of recruitment fees.
In-house recruitment teams are generally busy and staff referral schemes are once again providing a decent return. But there won't be that much movement until probably the second quarter 2004, when the good times should certainly start to roll. Firms just haven't got the money to buy out bonuses at this stage of the cycle and, 10 months into the year, most staff will not move without their new employer picking up the tab. As a result, we are seeing a pick-up in the temp-to-perm market and City workers who are between jobs are finding it a little easier now to get back into the market.
Bonuses pools will be bigger this year, but not as big as staff generally would wish them to be. After three bad years, City workers are eager to be paid what they feel is their due. Managing expectations will be key for firms wishing to retain staff into 2004, when the economic upturn should result in strong pipelines and a busy workforce. The verdict on bonuses is one of cautious optimism. Staff should reckon on an improvement of between 10-20% on last year. Expecting anything else would be unrealistic and just asking to be disappointed. For the return of the big bonus, bankers will have to wait until 2004.