Financial services headhunting firms have not been having an easy time. Their fees are under pressure from banks' parsimony and from a switch away from guaranteed bonuses (which they used to factor into their payment calculations). Horrified at the hugeness of headhunting fees, banks have been trying to do more headhunting in-house. Long-established search consultants have taken early retirement. Others have been struggling on and making a loss.
Where they're available, we've looked at the most recent accounts for some of the biggest financial headhunting firms in London. This is what they're saying about the current state of the City's financial recruitment industry. And this is who you need to know if you're hoping to move outside your firm into (typically) a vice president or managing director role elsewhere in the industry.
1. Sheffield Haworth
What? Sheffield Haworth is an international 'full service' financial services search firm which covers most areas of investment banking and the asset management industry. Formed in 1993, it ranked joint first with the Omerta Group as London's leading financial services search firm in 2013 by the Executive Grapevine survey. Works a lot with Barclays.
Size and profitability? Sheffield Haworth hasn't produced annual accounts since 2011. At that time it had a turnover of £17m, a profit of £1.5m and 112 employees earning an average of £102k per head, with the highest paid director earning £632k.
Who should you aspire to know there? Key names at Sheffield Haworth include Gilbert Swann who has responsibility for the firm's IBD practice in Europe, Dominie Moss, who heads the fixed income practice, and Juliette Marrannes, who runs the equity derivatives practice.
2. Omerta Group
What? The Omerta Group ranks joint first with Sheffield as London's leading financial services executive search firm. Co-founded in 2002 by former bond trader Jason Mort, it was originally focused on fixed income sales and trading but has expanded to cover equities and investment banking.
Size and profitability? Omerta doesn't publish its accounts.
Who should you aspire to know there? The key men at Omerta are Mort and co-founder Mike Hindley, both of whom have traditionally focused on the fixed income markets. Jack Simkin covers investment banking and emerging markets. Gavin Christie heads the EMEA equities team.
3. Armstrong International
What? Armstrong International didn't rank on Executive Grapevine's list of top financial services search firms in London last year. This seems strange as it has a high profile in the market. Like Omerta and Sheffield Haworth, Armstrong covers all key areas of investment banking. Thought to work with Goldman Sachs.
Size and profitability? The most recent accounts for the Armstrong Management Group (Armstrong International's holding company) state that the company made a loss of £30k for the year ending November 2011.
Who should you aspire to know there? Armstrong's managing partner and head of its European fixed income business is Matthew Osborne. Nick Harper is responsible for placing equities salespeople and traders, and William de Quetteville, a former UBS banker, runs the investment banking practice.
What? Initially an equities-focused search boutique, Execuzen has evolved into another 'full service' financial services headhunting firm covering all areas of investment banking. It ranked fourth in the London market according to the most recent Executive Grapevine survey.
Size and profitability? Execuzen's most recent accounts cover the year to 30th April 2013. In those 12 months, it made a healthy profit before taxation of £4m on turnover of £6m. Profits were up 43% year-on-year.
Who should you know there? The key man at Execuzen is still founder and sole director Adrian Ezra, the former equities trader who founded the firm in 1999. However, Ezra doesn't run his £6m business single-handedly. Sarah Sopher manages the global equities practice. Alex Horlock heads global debt and credit markets.
5. Sainty Hird
What? Founded over a decade ago by Julian Sainty, a former broker at Pinchin Denny & Co. and Standard Bank, and Christopher Beatson-Hird, a former JPMorgan banker, Sainty Hird has similarly evolved into a broad-based search firm covering all areas of investment banking. The firm is often associated with top-level searches related to investment banking in London.
Size and profitability? Sainty Hird's most recent accounts don't state its revenues or profitability. Previous accounts, dating back to 2010, showed revenues of £9m and profits of around £2.25m.
Who should you know there? Beside Julian Sainty (who mostly covers CEO and very senior roles) Christopher Beatson-Hird (who covers senior roles across investment banking), key staff include Nick Woolf (function and operations roles), Nicholas Reed (specializes in derivatives) and Ralph Grayson, who specializes in global equities.
This is why you need to change your banking job every five years
Six signs you have to quit your banking job in the next six months
Invaluable advice for bankers in their 30s, from bankers in their 40s