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Friday, 2 December 2011

The awful job market is now pushing people out of banking

Shree Ann Mathavan

Bleak prospects in the banking industry are making some people contemplate a career change. A few employees, especially those in the middle and back office, are now even thinking the previously unthinkable – leaving banking altogether.

Derek Kenny, director, Gulf Connexions Group, has seen an increase in such moves among finance tech (project management and business analysis), finance and HR professionals.

“Banking is becoming a pretty easy place to headhunt out of for organisations in other industries such as tech firms, telcos and aviation. A top candidate is a top candidate and although there will be a learning curve when you move industries, companies are willing to invest in smart people,” says Kenny. He knows of one corporation which specifically looks to hire candidates from banks.

John Mullally, manager, financial services, Robert Walters Hong Kong, has seen job seekers move into professional services firms like management consultancies or accountancy practices. However, in most instances these people still work within the broader finance industry.

Staying on is getting increasingly harder

It used to be that traders who were let go from tier-one banks could count on getting employed fairly easily in tier-two banks. However, such moves are increasingly difficult to pull off now, says Kenny. Employees who are laid off are facing the new reality that getting re-employed takes time. With banks downsizing, Kenny reckons this will “inevitably” lead to more people leaving the industry over time.

That certainly seems to be the case for traders in the commodities and energy markets whose teams have recently shrunk because of a harsher trading climate. Reuters recently reported that at least 10 bank traders have left their jobs in Asia over the past year. More than half joined physical oil trading companies and only three others joined banks.

Challenges

Making the transition to a non-banking role isn’t easy, of course. Mullally says the move is likely to result in a considerable pay cut. “It is unlikely for most banking professionals to switch industries and receive a salary increase. Firstly, they are probably not bringing a huge amount of domain knowledge to said industry and secondly, bankers are actually paid quite well, in comparison to professionals in other industries.” Those looking to leave banking will also need to retrain.

The road ahead

Mullally says there will continue to be career opportunities for banking professionals, just not on the same levels that the industry has been accustomed to. However, areas like compliance and risk management remain hot.

Although there may be a trend of even more people moving out of the industry in the near future, this is likely to be triggered by further redundancies, he adds. “The interesting trend to look at will be how many graduates over the new few years choose to pursue a banking career as it has undoubtedly lost some of its lustre, and graduate programmes will have far smaller intakes.”

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