The early part of every year - after bonuses have been paid out - is usually when firms start to really beef up their payrolls (provided the outlook for the economy justifies it).
Well, what will 2011 bring in terms of hiring ?
We think the first-quarter is likely to be a period of consolidation, where most firms assess what they have headcount-wise, reconfirm what businesses they really want to be in, and see how things play out, given the uncertain financial, economic and regulatory climate.
Here's our take - a league table of the firms most likely to increase headcount in the New Year (the higher the firm up the league table, the more likely they are to be hiring). And it's not all bad news.
1. Citi - a firm on a mission. After a tough couple of years, Citi will start to push the hiring boat out. However, budgets will be tight, and the firm won't overpay for talent.
2. Standard Chartered Bank - largely unaffected by the financial crisis and has key businesses in parts of the world which will fuel growth, Standard Chartered will be the surprise hiring package in 2011 as, across the board, it attracts the kind of high calibre staff it has previously found difficult to bring on board.
3. RBC Capital Markets - this firm has also emerged as a dark horse over the last 18 months. It has taken advantage of Royal Bank of Canada's strong balance sheet and healthy asset base to quietly increase headcount during 2010, and will continue to do so into 2011. Another firm that will increasingly be able to attract staff who, just a couple of years ago, wouldn't have considered signing up.
4. Deutsche Bank - expect this German giant to continue to beef up payrolls in 2011. The investment bank under Anshu Jain won't be afraid to increase headcount even if the economic climate remains challenging. The firm has a big enough balance sheet to be patient when it comes to making a return on hiring key staff.
5. Nomura - don't give up on these boys yet (or underestimate the desire to become a player in the investment banking big league). The influence of ex-Lehman executives will continue to be seen as the firm hires high profile staff from rivals in 2011, especially as it tries to establish a bigger footprint in the US.
6. Barclays Capital - after a huge increase in headcount in the last 18 months, expect the rate of growth in headcount over at BarCap to slow in 2011. Having said that, this is a firm that doesn't seem to be able to stand still for long, and (given a decent economy) payrolls should increase throughout the year (although the job axe might fall on under-performing staff along the way).
7. Jefferies & Co - really put itself on the map over the last 18 months with a number of quality hires from rivals, Jefferies will grow at a slower pace in 2011 and will tend to make strategic and opportunistic hires rather than engage in volume-driven recruitment initiatives.
8. Wells Fargo - higher up this league table than many will expect, Wells Fargo will continue to build out its (mostly Wachovia) investment banking franchise in 2011. Don't expect plans for global domination, though, and the firm will play to its strengths by mostly beefing up payrolls in the US.
9. Societe Generale - will probably be the most aggressive of the French banks in the hiring stakes in 2011, although might struggle to bag some of the key staff it seeks due to the fact that the centre of power remains firmly in Paris (say no more).
10. JPMorgan - the firm has gained a justified reputation for hiring the best people while not necessarily paying top dollar, and this will continue into 2011. However, CEO Jamie Dimon and his executive team won't want to be out on a limb and at the mercy of the economy, so don't expect the firm to be pushing the boat out big time next year unless markets improve.
11. HSBC Investment Bank - expect the firm to be in the middle of a lot of hiring action in Asia-Pac as it continues to try to build on its already solid foundations there. Hiring elsewhere will be strategic and opportunistic.
12. Goldman Sachs - this is one league table Goldman won't want to top. Expect a more cautious approach to hiring in 2011, as the firm assesses how to position itself for the future. Goldman will continue to beef up where it needs to, but there won't be too many staff anxious to leave of their own accord and there will be fewer open positions than this year.
13. Credit Agricole - another surprise package, the firm will be looking to build on a solid 2010 and will feature more prominently in the hiring stakes next year.
14. Royal Bank Of Scotland - although certainly not in growth mode, the firm's Global Banking & Markets unit will be in the market beefing up areas now considered key to its future. It will also have to fill gaps as staff continue to leave as they become frustrated with working for a UK government majority-owned institution.
15. Lazard - expect a healthy number of new recruits next year, mainly senior staff and in the US. The firm's restructuring business is also expected to see increased headcount in 2011.
16. UBS Investment Bank - the firm will continue to grow into 2011, albeit at a slower pace than last year. It will be at pains, however, not to allow headcount to get significantly ahead of revenues.
17. Credit Suisse - no firm the size of Credit Suisse will just stop hiring, but the firm is expected to put its foot on the recruitment ball in the early part of 2011 in order to bed down the many it hired in 2010. It will assess general future headcount requirements further down the track, when the economic outlook becomes a bit clearer.
18. Rothschild - very selective about who its hires, the firm will continue to beef up headcount modestly without fanfare.
19. Bank Of America Merrill Lynch - expect Bank of America to be somewhat cautious going into 2011. Massive across the board recruitment is unlikely until the economic mists clear. Doubtless this will disappoint some of the more gung-ho crowd over at BofA Merrill Lynch.
20. BNP Paribas - it's going so well over at BNP Paribas, why let the investment bank spoil it ? Hiring around the edges and filling open positions will be the order of the day - unless there is a significant pick-up in the economy.
21. Macquarie - well positioned to take advantage of an uptick in economic conditions, the firm will remain cautious about significantly expanding payrolls in 2011. Will hire only where it has to.
22. Morgan Stanley - expect the firm to continue its investment banking hiring freeze into 2011. The first few months will be more about getting the best out of those already on board, rather than bringing in new hires.
23. Commerzbank - will be in no rush to build up its investment banking headcount (and rightly so). The firm is in the process of reinventing itself and retains a very cautious approach to risk - in all areas.
24. ING Wholesale Banking - not a big part of the ING Group operation, wholesale banking is tolerated rather then seen as an important business unit in its own right. Headcount is expected to remain fairly static, with individuals being hired on an 'as required' basis.
25. Standard Bank - going through a major restructuring, beefing up headcount over at the investment bank will be the last thing on its mind.
26. WestLB - will do very little recruitment until its fate is more certain. And will struggle to recruit quality staff until it's future is more certain in any case.