Demand for finance skills remains strong despite EU wobble

Demand for financial talent is still strong despite huge employer uncertainty ahead of the EU referendum.

According to new data from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) professional recruitment firms now have just 1% more vacancies on their books than this time last year.

The slowdown in demand is in line with the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics which found that overall vacancy numbers dipped by 0.1% in the three months to February.

However, permanent vacancies in financial services remain strong, up 10%, with marketing up 12%. IT and engineering have both recorded dips at 5% and 13% respectively.

The ongoing growth of the finance and accounting sectors is in line with data from recruiter Robert Walters which found that demand for tax professionals across the UK increased by 8% in the first quarter as increased scrutiny over the financial dealings of large corporations created pressure to improve transparency.

APSCo also revealed that median salaries across all professional sectors have increased by 3.9% year-on-year. Financial services saw an uplift of 8.4%.

“While demand for professional contractors has increased year-on-year the rate of growth is far less than we have become accustomed to in recent months, creating a perception of market slowdown,” said Ann Swain, chief executive of APSCo. “Commentary and conjecture surrounding Europe, not least the Treasury’s 200 page Brexit analysis has of course had a negative effect on hiring confidence. But regardless of market uncertainty, professional talent is a valuable commodity which is crucial to the success of any organisation.”

Temporary and contract vacancies remained largely unchanged across the professional staffing market with opportunities up by just 1% across the board year-on-year. Vacancies across financial services, however, are particularly strong, rising by 30%.

Swain added: “While contractor vacancies often counterbalance a fall in demand for permanent talent, the fact that all hiring activity has close to flat-lined is indicative of the extent to which uncertainty linked to the EU referendum is deterring companies from taking on new staff. The exception to the rule is the financial services sector, where external influences and ongoing change management projects mean demand for talent remains insatiable.”