Legacy of the downturn: Efficiency, less risk and accelerated change for financial services firms

18 December 2013
  • More efficient work teams and a less risk-prone environment has emerged as a benefit from the recession, according to 62% and 56% of finance leaders, respectively 
  • Demand for temporary and interim staff soars as 67% of firms increase recruitment
  • Interim professionals are employed to deliver system improvements and regulatory initiatives

London, 18 December 2013 – With more positive economic data emerging, financial services executives are also considering the benefits that have surfaced as a result of the financial crisis, including more efficient working teams (62%), a less risk-prone environment (56%), accelerated change (49%) and reduced competition and/or increased market share (41%). The research from leading recruitment specialist Robert Half Financial Services also finds that more than two thirds (67%) of businesses have increased their use of temporary and/or interim staff as a result of the financial crisis.

The UK financial services sector is leading its global peers in driving efficient work teams with more than six in 10 (62%) citing this as a positive impact of the downturn, compared to Singapore (40%), Germany (31%) and Hong Kong (29%). The UK also scores global top marks for creating a less risk-prone environment (56%) compared to 29% of Hong Kong respondents and accelerating change (49%) compared to 35% of German respondents.

The UK sector is also leading the way in its drive to hire additional temporary and/or interim staff as a result of the financial crisis with two-thirds (67%) of businesses having done so compared to Hong Kong (62%), Singapore (59%) and Germany (45%). Within the UK this rises to nearly nine in 10 (88%) of large firms, compared to 81% of medium-sized companies and 47% of small businesses within the UK financial services sector. 

The main drivers for deciding to hire more temporary and interim staff are availability of skilled talent and knowledge, cited by 61% of UK financial services companies, and the need to be more cost-effective, highlighted by 39% of respondents.

Since the downturn, financial services companies have hired senior interim staff to help with a range of projects and initiatives, finds the research.  They include systems improvements (59%), regulatory initiatives (52%), business process reengineering (48%), compliance (47%), financial control (46%), risk management (33%) or internal audit (20%).  Interim staff skilled in implementing regulatory initiatives are more likely to be in demand by large organisations (72%) than medium companies (62%) or small businesses (34%). This echoes earlier research that suggests that CFOs and COOs are spending as much as one full day per week managing regulatory change, likely prompting the need to bring on experienced interim regulatory specialists to manage key projects.

When asked why they had engaged interim staff to help manage those specific initiatives, over a third (37%) of respondents to the survey said that it was because they needed access to skills that were not available in-house. A further 29% said it was because they faced a hiring freeze for permanent employees, while 27% cited the ‘cost-effectiveness of hiring interim versus permanent staff’. A much lower number of respondents (4%) pointed to the project nature of an initiative, i.e. that there is no long-term need for the role, while just 3% said that they used interim staff for knowledge transfer and training for the rest of the team.

Neil Owen, Global Practice Director, Robert Half Financial Services commented: “The financial services industry has faced enormous change since the economic crisis began in 2008, including the need to comply with a flood of new regulation.  Temporary and interim staff play a valuable role in bringing additional resources or missing skills to companies in the financial services industry, particularly when large projects such as regulatory initiatives are underway.

“The opportunities for interim professionals in the financial services industry are clearly on the rise in London as well as across the UK.  Those professionals with experience of implementing initiatives around regulatory compliance, business process change and systems improvement are the most in demand and should remain so as companies continue to invest in these areas.”

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Notes to editors

About the Survey

1 The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 100 CFOs and COOs from UK Financial Services firms.

About Robert Half  

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. Founded in 1948, the company has over 345 offices worldwide providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology and administrative professionals. Named one of the Sunday Times’ 100 Best Companies to Work For, Robert Half offers workplace and job seeker resources at roberthalf.co.uk and twitter.com/roberthalfuk.