This may not be the best time for U.S. financial professionals to work in the UK and Europe

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With the European financial crisis weighing heavily on the collective consciousness here and abroad, just what does that mean for finance hiring in the UK and Europe and for American finance professionals looking for jobs there?

In an interview with eFinancialCareers, Mehul Pau, head of fixed income and currencies at Cavendish Bloom, a London-based executive search firm, notes that now just may not be the time to look across the pond for a new opportunity. He points to the emerging markets as a safer bet.

Similar to the U.S., Pau and his colleagues say the UK is witnessing a slowdown on the equities front. The one space that seems to be spared, however, is the commodities sector. Here is what Pau had to say.

Q: What consequences, if any, have there been to the job market for finance professionals in the UK and throughout Europe due to the current financial crisis there?

Over the last two years, a number of investment banks invested heavily into the development of their European business by building out both existing and new client/product coverages. However, with the financial turbulence Europe has suffered, the banks have not yet seen a return on their investment. Many of our clients are focusing more on retaining their existing business rather than seeking to develop new business.

Bonuses this year did not meet expectations, and while in 2011 that resulted in a number of movements, this year there has not been the opportunity to jump ship. Those with focus on Greek, Spanish or Italian client bases have found it difficult to get back into the market.

Q: Given the cache of working in a financial center such as London, many American finance professionals do look to the other side of the pond for opportunities. But given the current upheaval, isn’t this a bad time to look for a position in the UK?

Most of the roles for American finance professionals exist in either emerging market countries or within emerging market organizations looking to expand outside of their native countries. There is demand for senior candidates who have demonstrable track records and can build business for a foreign hirer. Resume focus will be on business development and those with a transferable client base will be priority.

As far as the emerging markets, many think that language barriers or the stigma of hiring a foreigner in a down market will be an issue. But we have seen that it is only the mid- and back-office and upper management seats being occupied by native speakers, and in this market, experience and the ability to generate revenue is more important than the nationality.

Q: What sort of job titles are you seeing a demand for right now and in which countries?

Within commodities, our firm has seen the balance of power swing toward the houses who have access to physical assets, be that in storage terminals, pipeline capabilities or mining facilities. The titles “commercial manager” and “country manager” are being increasingly used in developing markets within Africa and South East Asia. This reflects the gravitation of professionals across the commodities space toward the physical side of the market. Individuals are now in positions where they control crushing plants in soft commodities houses or several refineries within oil majors.

There’s also been gravitation from West to East in demand for commodities professionals. BHP Billiton and Trafigura have recently shifted their trading headquarters to Singapore, leaving the shackles and spotlight of the European debt crisis behind. Tax rates in Singapore and Hong Kong are retaining their allure—draconian taxation levels in Europe juxtaposed with the exciting growth potential in the Far East have only embellished the effect. The bracket of “senior traders” and “trading managers” has bulged, and this comes from privately owned trading houses who absorbed the most capable banking employees who are no longer interested in title alone, but are more keen on keeping their job and dodging the Volker rule.

Q: What’s been happening on the equity trading and sales front in the UK and throughout Europe?

Cavendish Bloom has seen that equities have been the most severely affected asset class, with a number of investment banks shutting down their global equity operations. Within equities, cash has been the most hard hit product area, finding a job in European/UK cash equity sales and trading is somewhat similar to finding a needle in a haystack.

With more downsizing yet to take place, the European/UK job market for cash equity professionals isn’t looking great among the larger investment banks. However, there are a number of smaller investment banks who are on the prowl for any exceptional sales people or traders, but whether those individuals would be willing to move down the ranks to a smaller shop is another matter. Most banks have also downsized their derivatives and structured products platforms too, but kept enough to maintain a smoothly running operation without the excess cost of an unnecessarily large workforce.

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