Job Hunting – Financial Services

Business with personality
Financial services employers are looking for secretarial and support staff that are flexible and have personality, says Julie-Anne Page, Associate Director of the Secretarial & Support Division at specialist banking and finance recruiters, Morgan McKinley.

By Julie-Anne Page

It’s certainly not all doom and gloom within the financial services job market. Despite the ‘credit crunch’ and recent stock market volatility, there are some great career opportunities on offer for secretarial and support professionals within the financial services sector. However, the jobs market is more competitive than it has been in recent years and so it’s more important than ever to know how to stand out from the crowd.

Some areas within the industry have been more affected by the subprime crisis than others, such as certain parts of investment banking and these employers are still assessing the full impact of the crunch on their business and therefore their hiring needs. However, smaller and boutique firms such as asset management houses, custodians and wealth management firms as well as other areas within investment banks are taking advantage of the candidate-rich market and recruiting high-calibre individuals.

Currently, candidates with strong team secretarial and PA skills are in greatest demand. Also, as the role of the ‘secretary’ continues to diversify, becoming more project-based and client facing, support professionals who have solid skill sets and who are willing to be flexible and take on new responsibilities continue to be highly sought after by employers.

A little extra to offer

It is worth remembering that competition for the most attractive roles can be fierce and having something a little extra to offer can make all the difference.

Additional skills such as languages, advanced IT knowledge, and Bloomberg or Reuters experience are increasingly attractive to employers because it demonstrates flexibility and a motivation to learn and develop. Likewise, financial services or blue-chip experience within a FTSE 250 company is highly sought after.

Personality is also an extremely important trait that employers continually emphasise when hiring. If you can demonstrate that you are confident liaising with senior executives, as well as happy to get involved in all aspects of the role, you will be looked upon favourably.

The pay

During 2007 basic salaries for financial services office support staff saw above inflation increases in certain areas. However, they have remained relatively steady during the first half of this year and bidding wars over talented support professionals that were almost a regular occurrence a year or two ago, are now more infrequent. Despite this, financial services continues to offer some of the highest salaries for support staff of any industry. For example, a junior to mid-level team secretary can expect to earn circa £28k - £38k per annum.

The temporary solution

Temping is a viable career choice for many support professionals in London, presenting a valuable opportunity to develop diverse skill sets across a variety of sectors within the financial services industry. This is particularly pertinent in the current market, where employers are favouring candidates who possess the ability to be flexible and adapt to a business’s immediate needs. Therefore, this type of well-rounded experience can be invaluable.

Likewise, if you have perhaps stayed on a linear career path in a permanent role for most of your career and unexpectedly find yourself available to temp, then this path will offer you exposure to temp to perm opportunities as many clients now favour this method of recruitment. It will also allow you to move into other areas of financial services such as the smaller boutiques where, typically, you can experience rapid career progression and a more diverse workload.

The current climate is prompting many employers to take longer to make permanent hires which can be frustrating for candidates. If you’re perhaps in between jobs, it is worth considering the benefits of temporary work to ensure there are limited gaps on your CV.

Hourly rates for temporary roles have remained relatively balanced over the past six months. For example, a skilled administrator can earn £14 - £16 per hour and a team secretary can command circa £14 - £17 per hour.

Market yourself to employers

Ultimately, the job market is becoming more competitive. If you can market yourself as flexible, approachable and adaptable, and be realistic in your expectations then it will certainly help you when looking to secure your next position.

Those who are able to offer more than the ‘standard’ secretarial skill set and experience, for example strong interpersonal skills, languages, and advanced IT knowledge, will be best placed in the current market. Simply by offering to take on different responsibilities and varying your workload you will easily build this experience and in turn benefit from what the current job market has to offer.

Julie-Anne Page is the Associate Director of the Secretarial & Support Division at specialist banking and finance recruiters, Morgan McKinley.

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