City Eye: The jobs still keep coming, and so will the deals

Click to follow
The Independent Online

And so a new term begins. It's time to sack the nanny, pack the kids off to boarding school and get some deals done. The summer talk of the bull market's death is exaggerated, of that there is no doubt.

If you're sensible enough not to take my word for it, believe in the business experience of René Schuster, the chief executive for UK and Ireland of recruitment agency Adecco.

Mr Schuster is the workplace equivalent of a taxi driver. If he tells you he had that financial services chief executive in the back of his cab asking for a large supply of IT, accounting and other support staff, believe it. He sees strong demand through to the middle of next year, when he does anticipate the possibility of a blip downwards.

Mr Schuster, a US national with accountancy, telecoms and IT experience, is as close to the real economy as anyone in the UK. The recruitment market is fragmented, with Adecco's 4 per cent share putting it just behind the market leader with 5 per cent – and 10,000 small agencies with 80 per cent of the market. But it is a monster industry worth £26bn a year, and Mr Schuster's perspective as a new boy (in the job for less than a year) is well worth taking on board. If he sees demand, there is demand.

His views on market consolidation, though, need to be taken with a pinch of salt. He doesn't fancy buying up lots of small firms because they are, he argues, overpriced right now. Well he would say that, wouldn't he?

I expect to see plenty of deals at the low end of the recruitment market, even if they are tiddlers of a few million. At the top end, there's still plenty of appetite and there will be a lot of activity between now and Christmas.

Why? Despite the rises in interest rates, the simple fact is that deals drive the bonuses that distort certain bits of our economy (the property micro-climate in South Kensington, for example, is positively tropical when the deal flow is good). Bankers, lawyers and their spouses want the trophies and baubles, and they've acquired the habit of playing with them.

Conditions haven't really changed that much from the spring and it will take a seismic shock to the system – perhaps a terrorist atrocity – before the deals dry up.

Who plays ball at Coutts?

But what do the deal makers do with those bonuses once they've bought their West End pad? If they're truly driven, they often don't have time to look after their own money. What a number of them do is give it to private bankers, such as those nice people at Coutts & Co.

Coutts has 60,000 clients in the UK, including the landed gentry. It also has clients who've made their own money, with 18,000 classed as entrepreneurs.

"We had an entrepreneurs' forum with 60 attendees recently, of whom 80 per cent were looking for mentors and 20 per cent offering themselves as mentors," says Nick Gornall, a director of the bank. "We had business leaders speak of their experiences. Being an entrepreneur is potentially a lonely experience."

Mr Gornall is properly discreet about his client list, but I understand that a lot of Premiership footballers rub shoulders with the Queen on the bank's database. Odd companions, unless you believe that both are cases of the undeserving rich.

So what does it take to join this eclectic band? "We try not to stick the criteria on the side of a bus," says Mr Gornall. "We hope we have a good understanding of what it is to be an entrepreneur, and our bankers make judgements accordingly."

Fine, but take it from me: if you don't have £500,000 in capital or an annual income of £200,000, forget it.

martin@martinfdbaker.com

Comments