Old Market Pros Say We've Been Here Before - But We Haven't

Old Man Sleeping

Here's something sent in by one of our readers.

'If you are a recruitment consultant, like me, you get used to twiddling your thumbs this time of year - line managers and HR are generally away on their two week vacations, and all decision-making comes to a relative halt. In truth, in years gone by, it was a good time to take stock of the year, plan ahead for the next few months and catch-up on some much needed admin.

But this year it feels very different - you can almost smell the fear in the air, as a raft of firms come out, one after another, and detail their latest cost-cutting plans, which incorporate seemingly thousands of job losses.

We've been here before, of course. But not usually in the summer (banks generally wait until just before year-end - bonus time - before pressing the panic button), and not usually so soon after the last major rounds of job losses (in this case, late 2007- early 2009).

Old recruitment dogs (and I'm not one) will take great delight in giving you the benefit of their years of experience - 'Relax, this is just another knee jerk reaction to a temporary dip in the markets and the economic uncertainty', 'It will all be alright. Just give it a few months and the banks will be back overhiring again', etc.

Maybe, but not everyone is so sure this will be the case; indeed, many feel that what we are seeing is a general realignment of the global economy (where the 'riches' move to Asia-Pac, and Europe and the US have to get used to their new place in the world economic order). And many feel that banking is changing for good too (certainly in the more traditional markets), as increased regulation, more political oversight, less appetite for risk and increased capital requirements conspire to make it much more difficult for many of the best-known financial institutions to earn an 'honest' crust.

The smart recruitment firms have been busy, of course, building up franchises in the likes of Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and China. And certainly there's money to be made there, but the markets are generally (at least at the moment) smaller, the compeition has got a lot tougher, and the lack of a large candidate pool means that positions are harder to fill (and revenues are harder to come by).

In short, in much the same way that banks are going to have to reinvent themselves to emerge from the structural changes taking place in the market, recruitment firms will also need to change how they do business - the type of people they employee, the kind of services they offer, and the way they charge for them. Not all will appreciate this, and many recruiters will continue to delude themselves that it will soon be back to 'business as usual' again, not realising until it's too late that the market has passed them by, and that they have been marginalised by their refusal to wake up and smell the coffee'.





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