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"The market is full of middle-aged white heterosexual male bankers who can't find new jobs"

If you're trying to find a new banking job right now, you may need to be patient. In some areas (eg. data and digital transformation jobs, macro trading) hiring is still pretty vibrant. In other areas, it's not. - In other areas, it's...strange.

"The market is kinda weird right now," says one London headhunter who specializes in M&A hires. "It'a a phony war. Banks will say they're hiring and that things are going on, but in M&A there are no fees to carry over from last year and any deals done in the second half of this year may not have an impact, so the feeling is that 2023 will also be bad. There are plenty of conversations and banks are keen to upgrade, but not much hiring is actually happening." 

As banks continue to keep a grip on costs while talking up the possibility of a second half rebound in investment banking fees, the emphasis is on "selective" recruitment above all. At Barclays, for example, hiring is still happening in investment banking, but has been downgraded from last year's enthusiastic hiring at "all levels" to recruiting for select areas like technology and healthcare banking. 

Part of the problem is that some banks - like BofA - have hiring freezes and others - like Rothschild - have said they'll either stop hiring or will take on fewer people. At best, banking headhunters say it's one in one out. At worst, it's twice as bad. "Everyone wants to be headcount neutral or slightly down," says one New York-based equities headhunter. "If you want to hire one person, you'll need to get rid of one - or more often two peope to make that hire possible." 

Where does that leave all the people already let go from the likes of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley?  In a difficult spot, is one answer. "A lot of these people haven't found new jobs yet," says the NY equities headhunter. "There's a bit of a feeling that there must have been a reason you were let go. It doesn't help that many of these people are white middle aged heterosexual men in a market that's much more conscious of diversity. They're the wrong profile and they're still very expensive."

While many people in this category are angry at being let go and unwilling to compromise, he says it is possible to get rehired. "I tell everyone that, 'Look, you're a white middle aged man, so you either get a job on a lower rung - as a director if you were an MD - or you go to a lower tier bank or a bank that's less concerned about ensuring it employs a diverse set people."

In M&A and investment banking, people are also being advised to be flexible, albeit in less blunt terms. "A lot of people let go in November and December are still looking," says Tom Ragland at search firm Harrison Rush. "I tell people to cast a wide net in terms of institutions and to be open minded. Look outside of traditional finance cities like New York and San Francisco."

The only way of getting back in is to emphasize what you can bring to the table and all the revenues you'll generate to justify your seat, and validate the removal of its incumbent. The head of another search boutique who operates in London and New York, says banks are very interested in upgrading now while business is quiet. "It's like hotels and restaurants that were totally renovated during COVID," he says. "Banks are taking the approach that they will upgrade as much as possible now in preparation for a recovery in Q3 and Q4 this year." 

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Ro
    Robert Frank
    18 February 2023

    Diversity hiring is an absolute disaster.

    Side note - most banking jobs will be replaced or severely devalued by AI over the next 5 - 10 years.

  • Ni
    Nick Popov
    17 February 2023

    Looking at hiring budgets... I'm not telling secrets, btw, because I don't provide any specifics... So, there's no budget to hire. The decrease in manpower will continue and will accelerate towards the end of the year. This means that if most former bankers don't change course or field, they're effectively in retirement. Sad but true.

  • Lo
    16 February 2023

    Most of the hiring is based on references and networking hence deserving candidates miss out. LinkedIn is there for HR to have their audit trail to show they advertised and acquired CVs. Diversity is only to show % numbers and mostly it results in non deserving diverse people hired at jobs they're not capable of. And similarly a lot of diverse people miss out on opportunities they should've grabbed but there were preferred candidates already for those positions.

  • No
    Not Just Men
    16 February 2023

    Not just men

  • ph
    15 February 2023

    I got laid off a while ago because American managers in a Oriental bank decided they didn't want to commute any more. They spent a future getting office space north of NYC and refurbishing that space, and ordering hundreds to start commuting there. The problem is that most of them live in Jersey, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. Commuting time for me would have gone from 4 hours round trip to 6 or more. And the thing is - MOST (not all) of those ordered to greatly increase their commute worked in positions where there was little need for them to be on site. So they lost a lot of people, then COVID hit, and the fancy new office space has been mostly empty the last few years.

    On a second note, there is massive age discrimination going on in these financial firms. A huge reluctance (especially by HR teams) to even consider anyone over 50, maybe even lower. And the youngsters who are now hiring managers have the gall to tell people with far more and better experience that they are not qualified for positions that they absolutely are. It's illegal, of course, but it will never be enforced. So a word for the wise - start saving for retirement so that you can after 50, even if that means depriving yourselves of decent homes, or schools for your kids. You don't know it now, but one day you'll get the call to HR, out of the blue, regardless of your reviews, and then find that no one will consider you, and sooner or later accidentally imply it's because of your age - but not say it in so many words. And no, it's not about me - it's been happening to very capable friends and colleagues.

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