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Australian IPO activity signals good hiring prospects for 2014

The flurry of listings on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) in the remaining weeks of 2013, and expectations of similar momentum in 2014, bode well for hiring by the banks, with many recruiters saying local institutions are currently very lean and ready to add staff.

The value of IPOs reported in November was more than the previous 22 months combined, according to Bloomberg figures, topping A$3.2 billion, and a number of new listings are in the pipeline. Low interest rates and cash-flush investment funds are driving demand for new listings, with those waiting in line including several in the property and technology sectors.

Singapore's Business Times says bankers believe that the IPO pipeline in 2014 could be worth at least A$6 billion (US$5.46 billion), representing a six-fold increase on 2012's listing activity.

Recruiters say that while they haven't seen an increase in hiring yet in anticipation of increased corporate activity by cash-flush newly listed companies, at least one said he was anticipating "that this may be a trend in 2014".

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David Bamford, a director of recruiter Ambition in Australia, says he is seeing increased confidence in many sectors of the economy. "There is no doubt that the increase internationally in IPOs has given confidence to global markets and we are starting to see the same here in Australia. Sentiment has turned (since the general election in September), which is absolutely key to an increase in hiring activity."

Judith Beck, managing director of the Financial Recruitment Group, says her company has witnessed increased activity in the last four weeks, with companies indicating that they will be hiring in the new year.

Many corporate and investment banks are understaffed, says Allira Salem, national account manager of Kelly Services. "This is not uncommon across all financial institutions as companies seek ways to increase productivity and absorb work within current teams."

Bamford agrees, saying investment banks in particular have been running lean for the past few years. "It is highly likely that the increased workloads created by increased corporate activity cannot be absorbed by current staffing levels, meaning there will be hiring once it is clear that a sustained increase is in play.

"But given the turbulent global economy of the past few years, banks are not likely to try to preempt the move with their hiring. It may take some time to unfold, but an increase in corporate activity will inevitably have staffing implications for banks, consultancies, law firms and a range of other service industries."

Roles likely to be in demand in 2014 include merger and acquisition specialists - Kelly's Salem says there is always demand for good professionals with strong local networks - while risk and compliance hiring will continue to be strong.

"We should also see an increase in activity in regulation, with the introduction of Dodd-Frank, as well as mortgages with the interest rate having remained stable since August."

Salem believes that compensation will remain steady in 2014, with short-term incentives becoming more widespread and bonus activity picking up.  "Post the end of financial year we may see a slight increase in salaries, however this will most likely be in line with inflation."

Beck says other business areas that will see a pick up include sales, marketing and product development, which were downsized over the past five years.

"Compliance and financial planning are definitely ramping up and most of the major financial institutions have active recruitment plans in these areas."

She agrees with Kelly's Salem about remuneration. "Salary levels will remain steady as companies are not prepared to go out of their ranges and are working on more transparent bonus plans to attract and retain. People are not going to leave their organisations for money, the motivator will be for a better culture."

AUTHORAmanda Vermeulen

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