Risk Market Update

Written by Calum Richmond on 01/12/2020

  1. It has been an interesting year hasn’t it?

From a recruitment point of view, it’s certainly had its ups and downs but I can still look back to some real positives from this year. Upon reflection; we’ve been fortunate enough to assist on some great hires and work with some excellent candidates, there’s a more open attitude towards flexible working, diversity and inclusion has been more at the forefront of hiring decisions, and we seem to be moving towards valuing an individual’s potential and aptitude over just what they’ve done beforehand.

To kick things off, one of the major changes this year has been the rise of remote working. Working from home has always been a divisive topic and has often been viewed as a privilege. One of the more positive legacies of the pandemic will hopefully be that we’ve proven that there are certain roles that can be done remotely and still performed to a high standard. On face value, it makes a lot of sense; lower cost on office space, widening of available talent pool, better work/life balance for employees and the list goes on.

However, we shouldn’t view working from home as some form of panacea as it does still come with inherent issues. There are obvious logistical and control issues to face but we should also consider the human side of all of this as well. The social side of work has always been a massive factor and as social beings we tend be energised by working alongside others. There’s also the potential long-term effects that will come from the lack of informal learning and training that comes with working with people on a day to day basis.

Whatever your thoughts on it, it’s certainly here to stay. The majority of people we speak to have said they’d expect some form of working from home arrangement post pandemic and that this would play a major part in their decision on whether or not to take a role in the future. Therefore, this is an important consideration if you are looking to hire and the practicalities of it should be thought out before going to market.

Diversity and inclusion has rightly been the hot topic of the past few years and this has continued into this year. Within Risk specifically, the majority of placements we’ve made at VP level and above has been done through placing female candidates. This doesn’t mean that we’ve solved the issue and there’s still more work to be done in regard to improving the representation of other demographics, but it is a positive sign nonetheless. It seems that the work that’s gone into attracting a more diverse pool of candidates into more junior roles over the past few years is definitely starting to bear fruit at the senior end as is the work that’s gone in to removing bias in the interview process.

Another refreshing point from this year seems to be the willingness to allow people to take a step up in responsibility when making a move. We’ve seen numerous examples of people stepping into Head of Risk/CRO roles for the first time and it paying dividends. I think this pays testament to the amount of good talent that is available on the market but does also shine a light on just how competitive it now is at the more senior end for candidates. With the overall risk and governance space reaching a level of maturity compared to the rapid growth of the past ten years, there is more senior level talent available and the population in this space is growing year on year. However, in terms of hiring, the senior end of the market has dropped off slightly in comparison to previous years. This can be attributed to the uncertainly caused from the pandemic and lingering concerns around Brexit. The nature of roles at the more senior end are naturally more strategic and the uncertainty in the world has slowed down hiring at this level.

In terms of specific disciplines, we’ve found operational and enterprise wide risk to be the most stable areas this year with hires being made at all levels. The inherent operational risks that have been highlighted through the pandemic, in addition to continued regulatory scrutiny has led to  hiring in this space across the board. Within the operational risk space in particular we have seen the continual flux between 1st and 2nd line ownership of these risks, so candidates with the mix of both have been in particularly high demand as firms look to find solutions to best fit their needs.

Similarly, candidates from a quantitative risk background continue to be highly sought after, particularly with systematic and HFT funds still going strong and more and more sell side businesses moving becoming more reliant on e-trading offerings.

On the other hand, we have seen a slight drop off on senior level hiring within credit and market risk, tied to the uncertainty around a lot of firm’s short – mid term strategy in light of the current pandemic.

In terms of the entry level – junior level market, it’s remained relatively stable throughout and has been relatively insulated from the issues faced at the senior end. We’re still seeing businesses looking to identify the best talent from graduate level through to ‘second jobbers’, and we see no reason for this to change.  

Some of the real winners in 2020 have been the more boutique sized houses who already operate with leaner teams. People have found progression opportunities harder to come by within the larger firms this year which has led to them look for opportunities on the external market. As such, when it does come time to hire, the smaller firms have naturally found themselves in a more commanding position, with a wider talent pool to choose from. Similarly, as the risk market reaches maturity, we’re seeing more and more candidates see the benefits that come from working in a more boutique sized business (breadth of role, less layers of bureaucracy etc) as opposed to wanting to stay and continue trying to climb the ladder in a larger firm.

In summary, whilst 2020 has been a difficult year there are still a lot of positives that we can take from it and going in to 2021 we expect to be busier than ever before. As I’m sure many of you reading this can testify, a lot of people have been working harder than ever and are finding themselves stretched by the lack of resource around them. Naturally this can’t continue forever and at some point something has to give.

We’re already having conversations with clients who are looking to create new roles and expand existing teams and I think a lot of potential candidates who put their job search on hold this year will re-enter the market. As such, if you’re in a position where you’re going to need to grow your team, now’s the time to initiate those conversations so as not to miss out on the best talent in Q1 next year. Similarly, if you’re perhaps considering your options going into next year then this is a great chance to have exploratory conversations and understand options will be available to you.



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