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I'm a headhunter and banks' refusal to pay my bills is exhausting

I’m a headhunter. I work in London with leading banks and boutiques in the financial sector and I am reasonably successful. Or at least I would be, if my clients paid their bills on time.

At the time of writing I am owed c£150k by several large institutions that most users of this site would be familiar with. I am assured that they will be paying me sometime. The question is, when? In the meantime, I am expected to continue jumping through hoops on their behalf with no assurance that I will actually be paid.

I am not the only one in this situation. I know of many other recruitment firms with a similar issue. Big banks are poor payers, and it’s time they were called out.

In the UK, it’s normal to pay within 30 days. Some of the largest banks, however, have a habit of only paying after three or even four months. This seems to be standard policy for them. One large and well known European bank made me wait six months. Another client confessed that late bill payment is a regular problem for them and was shamefaced about their record.

Many recruiters and headhunters are small businesses. Banks are supposed to be sympathetic to our struggles. We are trying to foster a partnership relationship where we provide the best possible talent, but too often now this is lost in layers of administration. It creates cashflow issues and stress. I know of one rival who’s had to resort to lawyers’ letters to try extracting payment. I also know of in-house recruiters who say our bills go to the bottom of the pile on purpose. The worry can make things abrasive at home; it contributed to my own divorce.

Not all institutions in the market are bad payers. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the institution you’re dealing with, the more promptly they pay. For this reason, I prefer dealing with boutiques. And I know a lot of recruiters will say exactly the same.  

Graham Jones is a pseudonym Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: in the first instance. Whatsapp/Signal/Telegram also available. Bear with us if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article: all our comments are moderated by human beings. Sometimes these humans might be asleep, or away from their desks, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. Eventually it will – unless it’s offensive or libelous (in which case it won’t.)

Photo by Arthur Edelman on Unsplash

AUTHORGraham Jones Insider Comment
  • To
    24 October 2019

    Raise your rate, then discount it back down for prompt payment (so it's not a surcharge for them to argue over). IE, if your fee is $1000, make it $1100 with a 10% discount if paid within 30 days.

  • Bl
    10 October 2019

    Would a factoring company be willing to take on your receivable? Albeit at a discount, this could potentially solve the problem.

  • Si
    Silver Fox
    10 October 2019

    Have you looked at the small business commissioner website? Its been set up the government to help small businesses with late payment by clients. Some of our clients pay late, the bigger the firm, the later they pay. We have now started calculating interest on late invoices, usually a week past payment date, this works to speed up the late payment process.


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