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Wednesday, 17th April 2024
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Staff retention up in slowing market Back  
Helen Morris looks at the trends in financial services recruitment with and finds that careers in fund administration, e-finance and insurance are the pick of the crop.
Against a general backdrop of terms such as ‘workforce shedding’, ‘market downturn’, ‘job cuts’, ‘recruitment freezes’ and ‘redundancies’ in the US and the UK, the outlook for the Irish economy could have had cause for fear and panic. However, despite false dawns from marketers, which initially caused this apprehension among the business community, it seems the prediction of decline seemed unfounded. The possibility of slowdown and recession in the US does pose a risk to Ireland and this will undoubtedly have implications for the recruitment industry but even if growth is slower than last year’s, Ireland’s economic performance looks set to continue.

As the economic market changes, it naturally has a bearing on the recruitment industry. For the first time since the conception of the IFSC in 1987 we have experienced a reduction in the recruitment of new staff. There are a number of reasons for this. First and foremost, as a direct result of the US economy but also the summer months have traditionally been slower for recruiting staff, predominately due to the number of individuals on holidays. Also, we feel that organisations are having to readdress their strategic plans for the future and learn from their experience in other financial markets.

During the last number of months we have seen a number of recruitment agencies downsizing their operations and announcing profits that were significantly lower than previous years. As the market changes those ‘recent additions’ to the market may experience some new challenges that they have not faced before and without sound technical knowledge and strong client relationships, may not be able to weather the storm.

Vacancies are still coming in and plans are being made for new ventures and winning new business. Candidates have far from disappeared; in fact, Ireland is very attractive location to people all over the world. In the past four years alone, almost 400,000 new jobs have been created in a total, but growing, population of less than four million. Within this time frame, the unemployment figures have dramatically decreased from 179,000 to 68.8 (Central Statistics Office) as new opportunities exist for anyone with a willingness to work. Recent governmental predictions indicate that over 350,000 new jobs will be created over the next five years and more than two-thirds of these will be filled by non-Irish workers.

The greatest demand for staff is still within fund administration/ accounting and it is not unusual for companies to have in excess of 15/20 jobs open at any one time. There are currently over 45 fund administration companies operating out of the IFSC and this is constantly increasing as more and more organisations take advantage of the reduction in corporate tax. Total assets are presently over E181 billion as of February 2001 compared to E140.6 billion as of February 2000. These figures, which have been recently released by the Central Bank, demonstrate the continued rapid increase. As a result of this growth, organisations have to become more agile and forward thinking in their HR strategies as the lack of suitable candidates continues to pose problems in an increasingly tight market, where the skill shortage continues unabated. As a result of this shortage, a number of organisations (namely Fortis, PFPC and Deutsche) have relocated outside of Dublin hoping that this will result in more readily available staff.

Candidates with skills in this area have been able to move jobs without much effort and receive substantial pay hikes. However we have seen a slight shift in attitude recently, based on the US trend, that leaving jobs frequently is no longer a good idea. It is okay when the market is buoyant and demand is high but when the tide turns those individuals without the technical knowledge to match their high salaries may be left with no home to go to.

Competition to keep key staff has been quite difficult in the past and HR professionals have to constantly keep one step ahead to hold onto these individuals. In the past the financial services sector has had a good track record in training and career development. However this is no longer sufficient and HR professionals need to be more inventive with benefits packages and are now providing some of the following: bus pass, rent allowance, gym memberships, store cards, theme lunches, staff loans, clothing allowance, company car, flexi-time, and holiday vouchers.

Due to recent changes in legislation, many doors have been opened within e-business and quite a few organisations have plans to implement e-finance projects. It opens many doors for international business, which may not have been as accessible in the past. This has resulted in opportunities being developed for individuals with strong technical skills combined with a business background. Many of the banks have also developed on-line banking and we see this as having a very big effect on Ireland as it is still very much in the development phases.

Insurance may be the smallest sector within the IFSC, but employment opportunities within the industry remains extensive. 2000 was another year of growth within international insurance in Ireland, where thirty percent of the IFSC companies authorised were for life assurance and non-life insurance companies. There is also a large demand for individuals with strong skills within commercial underwriting, reinsurance, captive and group pensions. We have been working with many insurance companies who would have in excess of 20/30 open requisitions for individuals with these skills.

In the war for talent, employers need to take measures to monitor and improve levels in their workforce. The financial services industry has been immersed in an unpredictable era of development in recent times and this growth certainly looks set to continue into the years ahead. We are no longer a nation that must ship our young bright graduates to foreign lands as we were unable to offer challenging careers for them here. Graduates are spoiled for choice as more and more organisations compete for the brightest and the best.

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