When it comes to forming a consensus view of the market, clients are always very keen to hear what trends we observe in the employment market in terms of who is hiring and remuneration benchmarking.

There are no convenient short answers that can be given which offer immediate insight into the market. Whilst, despite what the press might have us believe, there is a healthy level of activity in the property market. The difficulty is that this activity is disparate and selective. As recruiters across the European and Asian markets we are well positioned to observe flows of capital and in turn hiring in the real estate and infrastructure markets. We all know where the negative areas are so I will concentrate on the positives.

While the number of vacancies in the market are still at relatively low levels in terms of numbers it does beg the question of why are recruiters busy and in demand. The issue comes down to one that is consistently a key driver in the property market which is that of supply of skilled commercial professionals. Employers need talented and versatile professionals in a distressed market more than it may do in a market where there is natural momentum to drive performance. To produce strong performance in this climate the funds are really having to use their skills rather than work with the pack. These skills are needed to select the best assets, the best agents and the best partners. Be this presenting a project that will gain support from a hand tied banking community or one that will inspire support from the plentiful, albeit conservative, sources of equity in the market.

Our specialist practice in Eastern Europe and Russia is very active in recruiting for most professional functions, where the continuing trend for hiring local talent is leading to shortages, particularly at the senior end of the market. Salary levels have progressively been driven back up as a result, with Cobalt’s placements in Russia in particular averaging out at similar to pre Lehman levels. Investor appetite held up well within the region on a broad basis in 2011, and although there is a feeling in Warsaw and Moscow that 2012 may not prove to be quite as robust in terms of overall investment flow, Morgan Stanley’s recent record breaking shopping centre purchase in St Petersburg demonstrates that institutional investors still seek opportunities on Europe’s periphery.

Our offices in Asia and the Middle East see a similar dynamic where local talent is in keen demand and that shows no signs of abating. The markets in northern Europe and the UK are more difficult to categorise although skilled commercial professionals are maintaining their values, both in terms of salaries and bonuses.

This MIPIM will be an interesting one and we think a positive one and overall should demonstrate the desire of those groups with money and local expertise to find those elusive deals and cautiously grow their teams.

Written by Timothy Rowe, Managing Director, Cobalt Recruitment