As the real economy plunges to new depths with 2.4 million people on the official unemployment register, so the City continues its remarkable fightback. The FTSE is growing apace, share prices bolstered by confident investors in the Square Mile.
So while nearly one million young people struggle to find work, some of the biggest names in British business await calls summoning them to interviews for their next high-paying jobs.
Several star names are either on the market or preparing to leave their current positions. Some have already been snapped up.
For example, the energy industry had been closely monitoring Tom Hickey, who quit as finance director of FTSE-100 constituent Tullow Oil last year. He re-emerged last month as director of hedge fund-backed oil producer Lothian, which will float on the London Stock Exchange this autumn.
Listed here are some of the business moguls who are mulling their next moves. They are sure to interest corporate Britain, as major companies look to capitalise on their share rallies by adding impressive names to their boards.
Charles 'Chip' Goodyear
The 51-year-old American is understood to be relocating to London this autumn after a failed stint in Singapore. Goodyear was due to take over as chief executive at Temasek Holdings, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, in October but they parted company last month in the wake of "differences regarding strategic matters". No matter: word that he is looking at schools for his children in the capital is sure to interest FTSE-100 groups. Goodyear was chief executive at BHP Billiton, the mining giant, for five years until 2007. Considered a success, his last year in charge saw a 21.4 per cent increase in revenue to nearly $47.5bn.
Foley left Aldi by "mutual consent" last week after 20 years with the supermarket chain, latterly as UK and Ireland group managing director. His reputation is perhaps slightly tarnished by the sudden decline in Aldi's growth, two thirds lower in the last quarter than at its 2008 peak. However, analysts believe that he will still be a target for rival retailers as he is generally credited with changing the perception of Aldi from a somewhat down-at-heel supermarket to somewhere that stocks cheap and premium goods. Price remained important, though, with slogans such as: "Spend a little, live a lot".
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Another grocer with a pedigree is Steve Esom, the former head of Waitrose and Marks & Spencer's food boss. Esom is in employment, having been made operating partner at private equity group Langholm Capital last month. However, he is described as "ambitious" by a leading retail source, suggesting that he will be itching to take up a senior role at a big grocer again soon. Esom left M&S last year under a bit of a cloud, but did at least walk off with a £757,000 pay-off. Also, many felt that he took too much of the blame for M&S's sales problems.
OUT OF HER SHELL
Less than a year ago, Cook was in line for a job that would have made her arguably the most powerful woman in British business: chief executive at Anglo-Dutch giant Shell. However, she lost to fellow internal candidate Peter Voser, and so, in June, quit the company – where she had risen to chief of gas and power – after nearly three decades. A "career-driven person" with exceptional commercial acumen, according to a senior energy banker, Cook is likely to be contacted over any senior operational role that comes up at a FTSE-100 company. A chief executive's job is not out of the question.
THE POLITICAL CANDIDATE
The notoriously gossipy aerospace and defence industry is already playing Chinese whispers over this one. Hutton, the 54-year-old former business and defence secretary, will quit Parliament after the next election, expected in the second quarter of next year. The word on the street was that he had already been lined up for a directorship at QinetiQ, the FTSE-250 listed former government defence research agency. Hutton has privately scotched these rumours. A boon to the Barrow & Furness MP's re-employment hopes is that he was relatively untouched by the expenses scandal, though he did claim rent paid on properties owned by the Labour Party.
Also fascinating the defence industry is the next move of Cook, who is retiring as chief executive at aerospace engineer Cobham in December. Cook is well regarded, having taken the company's share price from around £1 in 2001, when he took over, to a peak of more than 230p last year. At a market capitalisation of about £2.2bn, Cobham is no giant by industry standards, but Cook has turned the company into a FTSE-100 stalwart. Approaching his 60th birthday, he is most likely to be linked with non-executive roles. However, he is a tremendously hard worker, who is known to send emails at 5.30am. Cook also expects replies by 7am, so whether he will adjust to a hands-off job is uncertain.
SAFE AS HOUSES?
Richards will leave FTSE-100 commercial property giant Hammerson this September, having spent the past 10 years as its chief executive. He is considered to have been competent for most of that time, though trade weekly Property Week spoke for many investors earlier this month when an editorial stated that Richards' "last two years were a disaster". In the latest interim results, Hammerson's pre-tax loss was £818.5m, nearly double the same time last year. Nevertheless, Richards remains a big name in the specialist world of commercial property and has effectively sent out his CV by stating that he is "almost certain" to look for another position in the sector.
THE BIG ISSUE
Sir Fred Goodwin
OK, Fred the Shred isn't going to be on the shortlist of too many major corporates, and is even thought to have hidden in Spain while the row over his £703,000-a-year pension pay-off from Royal Bank of Scotland escalated. But it was reported last week that he is keen to find work in the charity sector when he returns to Scotland later this month. Goodwin was chairman of the Prince's Trust, the heir to the throne's charity that looks to raise £1m a week for six years until this summer. Goodwin can take heart from another failed, though far less reviled banker, Andy Hornby. The former HBOS chief executive has re-emerged at private equity owned retailer Alliance Boots. Goodwin's ambitions are more modest, so there maybe hope. Then again, maybe not.