Seller's market in a City hungry for recruits

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The Independent Online
The City's loud complaints about such outwardly obscure measures in Gordon Brown's first Budget as the abolition of advance corporation tax credits, notice of the ending of foreign income dividends, and a closing of a perceived tax loophole in market-making could easily leave the impression that it was in crisis.

Yet the Square Mile is booming. Whatever concern there may be about the future, the organisations operating there are largely preoccupied with meeting their immediate need for recruits.

There is wide agreement among specialist recruitment consultancies that they are in the "best job market for ages". The opening by Robert Half and Accountemps of a City office this month reflects that demand, says the agency's managing director, Jeff Grout.

But perhaps the best indication of the great demand is what Mr Grout calls "the remarkable offers" made to newly qualified accountants seeking to move into the heady world of financial services. His firm recently placed a six months-qualified accountant with a US bank on a salary of pounds 40,000.

Given such a market, the rules for entry are being relaxed in most areas apart from the still highly selective corporate finance field.

Though candidates must still possess formidable academic records, and have an appetite for hard work and long hours, the previous almost total dominance of the chartered accountant qualification in the UK is starting to give way to the chartered management accountant badge.

And, according to Jason Garner, the manager of finance recruitment for banking at the consultancy Robert Walters, people who have started as temporary workers are now getting very good jobs.

Consequently, it is a seller's market, with candidates often able to juggle three or four offers. In Mr Garner's view that has a spin-off effect in that not only are banks having a harder time hiring than they have for several years, but they must also refrain from some of their harsher practices for fear of losing people - and so having to go through the increasingly expensive recruitment process again.

But Mr Grout warns that the City is still "not for the timid". He reminds applicants that a "hire-and-fire environment" persists that is closely related to performance. In US banks, in particular, 80-hour weeks are common.

"A lot of people are attracted by the glamour, but I don't think it suits everybody," he addsn

Roger Trapp

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