In the past ambitious and motivated employees often requested to work for small entrepreneurial outfits sourcing value add opportunities. Though this may still be on many candidates’ wish lists it is, still an improbable prize.

Due to the uncertainties in the market and after a difficult 6 months, and a precarious medium term outlook, what is really attractive is job security in an organisation that has a strong balance sheet, trading history and a successful track record. Within those firms a good basic salary with fixed benefits is a much bigger draw than a speculative and incentivised loaded remuneration scheme, fully aware that high potential bonuses are not being paid out. All of this pushes candidates towards the larger corporate organisations such as global fund managers and large quoted property companies. These businesses have large portfolios and balance sheets to provide internal work to asset managers and developers without the need to chase returns in the investment market.

All of this may seem like old news and similar to what has been discussed for the last 3 years, but 12 months ago there were positive signs of intent within the market and things looked to be on the up. In the first half of 2011 most employees within the market were able to negotiate some sort of salary review and bonuses were paid to many. Though neither were at the levels seen in 2006/07, they were a very welcome increase and helped to satisfy some growing discontent. Disappointingly the second half of the year reverted back to the previous 3 years with the uncertainty around the world particularly in the US and across Europe rippling throughout the market. Expansion and transaction plans that had been put into place were then put on hold and will continue to be until a bit more visibility is restored to the market.

Though banks are not likely to be releasing any sizeable debt packages this year there is hope that they will start to release some distressed stock on to the market. Despite plenty of interest from all corners they have continued to hold on to this as they resist the low prices on offer. The time is coming when they will need to sell and this could kick start a secondary market which will help all members of the industry. Though regional retail will be avoided there is plenty of interest in the industrial and logistics sector and this where some of the highest demand could be seen.

It is fair to say with all this in mind that there is not going to be much of a trend or pattern this year. The healthier organisations will continue to find income generating opportunities, many will sit on their hands until there is a more positive outlook, whilst unfortunately others will be struggling with high debt exposure or badly managed portfolios. This means recruitment this year will match the market by being sporadic and inconsistent, there will be some exciting opportunities, but a great deal of recruitment will be replacement roles rather than growth and there will continue to be more candidates than vacancies. The biggest driver in this market is the quest for high quality talent both in investment and asset management professions in order to navigate investor’s money in these difficult markets. At Cobalt that is the focus for us and our clients in 2012.

Written by Christopher Mackenzie – Associate Director – Cobalt Recruitment