Core-Asset Consulting - 15-Mar-2021

Salary negotiations a No-No for investment ops professionals

INVESTMENT operations in Scotland continue to offer opportunities for young professionals despite the pandemic – but head hunters have warned that salary negotiations are off the table.

Young job hunters with in-demand skills who are used to negotiation for more favourable pay and bonus packages have been advised that employers are walking away at the first signs of haggling.

The “take it or leave it” trend has been highlighted in the sixth Annual Salary Guide into Scotland’s crucial financial service sector from Core-Asset Consulting. The report is a forensic review of current salary levels and a guide to the major developments that professionals need to be aware of.

In the section dedicated to investment operations, the report reveals that the recruitment market remained steady in 2020. with both global businesses and boutiques looking to add specialist staff.

Rachael O’Neill is Associate Director, Investment Operations at Core-Asset and specialises in recruitment across both asset management and asset servicing. She said that despite the pressures on employers to find key staff, salary options remained constrained.

She added: “We have seen a number of occasions where clients moved towards offering their second choice candidates the position, if the first choice candidate challenged the basic salary offered.

“The phrase ‘take it or leave it’, seems to be one which is permeating the world of investment operations. This ensures that salary benchmarks and bandings are maintained at a time of increased financial pressure for those operators within the sector.”

While employers are unable to negotiate on salary, they are increasingly looking at other ways they can attract young talent. That is consistent with the wider findings of salary guide, which says employers increasingly have to embrace flexible working.

Rachael added: “In a constrained market, where companies are competing for talent and where there are limitations on salaries, employer brand, market reputation and employee benefits are key differentiating tools. Employers need to move quickly when suitable candidates are identified.

“We anticipate this trend will continue post-Covid, meaning the ability for employees to work from home, together with clear career progression opportunities, will remain key drivers in attracting, and more importantly retaining talent in 2021 and into 2022.”

Core-Asset is Scotland’s leading recruiter in the financial services sector and has access to insights from thousands of candidates and Scotland’s top employers in the sector, which accounts for 7% of Scotland’s GDP.

Its annual Salary Guide is a report produced exclusively on the Scottish employment market which benchmarks salaries and jobs in Scotland. The data and numbers produced in it give a crucial alternative picture to the usual London-centric reports.

It is also a gauge of market sentiment, activity and themes that are impacting financial services across Scotland. Major themes this year include diversity, particularly as it relates to women, environmental and social governance, Brexit and ethical investing.

The report highlights how Scotland will remain, a strong centre of excellence for investment operations, primarily due to the historic roots of the sector, established talent pool and well-established footprint of the companies located here.

Scotland continues to be a key hub for global companies, with a continuing trend of relocating technical investment operations roles to Edinburgh and Glasgow from other global processing hubs. Meanwhile 2020 also saw boutiques recruiting, creating widely divergent roles for jobseekers.

Rachael added: “For many, the opportunity to work in a smaller business held appeal, allowing direct ownership of tasks/projects and exposure to senior management. For others, the structured career paths that larger companies offer allowed a clear development path. It was encouraging to see both these types of businesses growing head count requirements within early 2020.”

When lockdown bit in March 2020, a number of the investment operations businesses in Edinburgh placed recruitment on hold as they moved to remote working and focused on the process of simplifying the onboarding of any new starters.

Once this initial transition period had lapsed, there was a consistent flow of roles, with vacancies spanning asset management, smaller asset servicing firms, wealth management, the investment trust sector and fintech firms.

Meanwhile a glut of senior level candidates hit the market, particularly in asset management, as a result of restructuring and global mergers. For those affected the outlook is gloomy and Rachael added: “We do not anticipate that we will see a recovery in either the upper mid-level or executive level recruitment in investment operations for a significant period of time.”

Core-Asset Consulting was formed in 2005. Based in Edinburgh, it is now an £14m business employing 22 people and works across the entire financial services sector, from the smallest boutiques to the biggest global players.

Initially the firm carved its reputation in Scotland’s globally-renowned asset management sector. However, the success of its model allowed it to expand across the wider financial services market. It now boasts dedicated accounting, investment operations and finance teams and also works in Scotland’s thriving legal sector.

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