The 11 most desirable skills in financial services now
One way of assessing how in demand your skill-sets are is to look at the number of job vacancies available against the competition for those roles. Another, less obvious, way to gauge your desirability is to find out which skills and experience recruiters are looking for. We’ve pulled out the most searched for terms used by recruiters as they sought out candidates on the eFinancialCareers CV database over the course of 2014. Here’s what they’re looking for.
An obvious sector to top the list as large banks spend more and more on compliance staff to appease regulators – both HSBC and Standard Chartered have complained of cost-burden of keeping up with regulatory demands in recent weeks, and both banks have dramatically increased headcount.
Within this broad sector, though, there are particular hot spots: “There are a lot of jobs around financial crime, surveillance, investment monitoring as well as product advisory functions,” says Edward Manson, director at compliance and risk recruiters Merje. “Across the board, though, compliance is a very active area of recruitment currently.”
Investment banks are increasingly positioning themselves as technology companies, while IT budgets for hedge funds and asset managers are getting ever-larger. Within the development space, Java remains the most sought-after skill-set as more banks reengineer their trading, pricing and risk platforms. Increasingly, more investment banks are asking for Java developers in tandem with Scala.
“Part of this is down to an increase in demand for Java developers to work on greenfield projects, but there’s also a lot of C++ replacement work,” says Andrew Keene, director of IT in finance recruiters Thomson Keene. “Banks have been struggling to find C++ developers at the two to three year experience level – it’s increasingly a legacy programming language – so want to reengineer their systems in Java because it’s easier to hire for.”
While the banks are hiring for Java developers, hedge funds still want to bring in quantitative developers armed with a PhD in a mathematical subject and C# development skills. This has sustained demand in this area, says Keene.
4. Senior risk managers
Risk management within investment banking is another obvious entrant to the list. The battle for risk management talent is not within any particular business area, however, it’s at the senior end of the market. Compensation for senior risk managers is now topping $500k as banks struggle to prise candidates from competitors.
“Strategic thinkers who can keep up with regulatory demands without pushing up costs too much are a prize asset currently,” says Manson.
5. Business analysts
If you’re a business analyst with experience of regulations like Dodd-Frank, EMIR or MiFID who can help banks reshape their business models to comply with regulatory demands and meet investor expectations, consider yourself gold-dust. Banks need people with experience of “front to back” re-engineering who can help them streamline everything from IT to operations, says Ben Cowan, director, change solutions, at recruiters Investigo.
“Banks want all-rounders and they want them to stay on permanently, but few business analysts work on projects for longer than six months. Retention is a real issue for banks currently,” he says.
6. Internal audit
Large banks are still grappling with a shortage of qualified accountants coming out of the Big Four consulting firms couple with an increased need for internal auditors, says Russell Hughes, senior manager at Robert Half Financial Services.
“The strict regulatory environment coupled with a need for internal control will mean that this remains a focus area for the foreseeable future,” he says.
7. Product control
OK, demand for product controllers is at an all-time low in developed financial centres as banks look for ever-cheaper locations in which to base these functions. Singapore has been deemed too expensive, while Johannesburg and the Philippines are emerging as attractive locations.
The uptick in searches for product controllers can therefore be pinned less on an increase in roles and more an opportunity for recruiters to tap their skill-sets for alternative jobs. “There are a lot of roles for liquidity management within treasury functions as well as regulatory reporting and accountants who would have previously worked in product control are a good source of candidates,” says Matt Wilcox, director in the financial services practice at recruiters Marks Sattin.
Hughes, meanwhile, pins it on a lack of people available for what product control jobs there are currently: “Some product controllers can find the day-to-day job rather narrow and limited if they don’t enjoy developing a deep understanding of the product area they support. Often ACAs want a commercial role where they can influence decision making. The result is a shortage of professionals for product control.”
The only qualification to make it into the rankings, demand for ACAs – the long-favoured qualification in the City of London for accountants – has been spiralling this year, says Wilcox. “There are the business as usual finance jobs, but increasingly ACAs with deal experience are being hired by corporate finance houses to work on transactions. There’s been a 30% uptick in roles this year across the board, so inevitably there’s a shortage currently.”
9. Project management
Again, this comes back to the ongoing demand within change initiatives across the banking sector. Project managers with experience of leading transformation projects driven by regulatory demands or cost-saving measures remain hot property, says Cowan. “Most of it is regulatory-driven structural reform and change managers know their worth. More people are switching jobs, and this is creating a need to backfill, which fuels yet more demand.”
10. Anti-money laundering
While AML is ostensibly a compliance function, the jobs emerging are multi-faceted. Banks are hiring for AML testing managers, AML quality assurance specialist, project managers and business to oversee changes to AML practices and senior specialist AML advisors to guide employees and the business on KYC and financial crime matters.
Python is transforming from a relative backwater programming language in investment banking to one at the core of their trading platforms. Both JPMorgan and Bank of America use Python in their Athena and Quartz programmes respectively, employing some 5,000 developers with this skill-set. It’s increasingly being asked for by a variety of investment banks, says Keene.