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Financial services industry Q&A with Olive McDonnell

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A recent report by EY stated that Dublin remains the relocation destination of choice for Financial Services firms, with 34 firms saying they have either confirmed or are considering relocating to Dublin.

Despite covid and Brexit uncertainty, our own Financial Services experts echo this sentiment and have found many companies are still hiring and in need of talent – particularly within more well-established firms.

To get an insight into the market we spoke to Olive McDonnell, Principal Consultant for Cpl’s Financial Services team who recently returned to Cpl after a stint in Australia, about hiring trends and changes in the funds and finance industry over the past 6 months.

1.   Tell me a little about your background and your role in Cpl?

I've been working in recruitment for 5 years, both in Dublin and in Sydney. I am currently a Principal Consultant in Cpl, with experience working on both a retained and contingency basis for mid to senior-level positions within Funds, Investment Banking, Investment Management, Corporate Banking and Wealth Management.

2.    You came back to Ireland from Australia during the pandemic, what were the most notable changes you noticed in the financial services industry?

Since coming back from Australia, it’s been great to see the financial services sector hasn’t changed too much and it is still as busy as ever for us in Cpl. The biggest change has been the option, and in many cases necessity, to work from home.

Working from home was not an option for some clients pre-covid but most clients and candidates have now quickly adjusted to working from home full time. Another change is the level of talent versus the number of jobs. Right now, there is much more competition for positions and candidates are open to different locations due to work from home flexibility.

 3.    Travel, face-to-face meetings, and office working are all traditionally associated with the FS industry, how have our new ways of working impacted businesses and business relationships?

The new ways of working have been a huge change for everyone. In the beginning, from speaking to candidates and clients, it was a challenge for them. Everyone’s home situation is different, a lot of clients/candidates have families, so trying to balance work and home was a challenge. Especially when it came to Zoom/Team Meetings/Business catch ups.

Over six months in I think most have settled into the new ways of working and it is now quite positive. We have learnt how to manage and a lot of us have become “Zoom experts”. I think in time, face to face meetings will return for certain situations, but I do feel that we have now adjusted to the new way of virtual meetings/coffees, and it is here to stay.

4.    How is the overall hiring landscape? What are the main skillsets and roles employers are looking to fill?

Overall, it is great. We are working with established financial services firms who are happy to hire and keen to keep growing out their business. On the Funds & Asset Management side, the main skillsets employers are looking for are Private Equity, AML, Trustee, Risk & Compliance.

Over the last 5 years in the Irish market, there was a particularly high yield from Private Equity. There's a relatively small talent pool which means there’s a higher demand from employers as there are not enough candidates with the specific skillset required for PE.

5.    From the opposite point of view, what are professionals looking for in roles? Have you found that people are more hesitant to leave a job for a new opportunity due to the continued economic uncertainty?

There are lots of candidates who are willing to move from their permanent position for the right opportunity during Covid. Unsurprisingly flexibility and security are the two main things people are prioritising at the moment.

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed is that candidates who are seeking new opportunities are broadening their horizons when it comes to location. For example, I have a candidate living in the West of Ireland who wouldn’t have necessarily considered opportunities in Dublin pre-covid.

Now with work from home flexibility funds and banking professionals can work anywhere In Ireland which opens up a lot more possibilities. It’s also great for employers who might have been struggling to find the right talent before.

6.    Going forward, what do you see as the main challenges and opportunities for the funds industry in 2020/21?

I think the main challenge will be returning to the office full time. Employers and employees will have to have open and honest communication to get the right balance between working from home and in the office.

Going forward, with regards opportunities, there will be much better access to talent and a wider reach for candidates who can consider different locations, if the flexibility is there.

Cpl Financial Services is Irelands leading and largest Financial Services recruitment team. If you’re interested in learning more about the market, hiring talent or job opportunities get in touch with Olive who can advise. You can also learn more on our Financial Services page.