Back to News

Market intelligence report

EMEA – Compliance

The last 3 months has seen a significant amount of mid-level compliance recruitment taking place.  Our Contingency team is currently working on close to 50 open roles.

Our larger clients are starting to recruit; whilst not in significant numbers yet, we are starting to see more roles coming out of the larger investment banking groups.

A number of senior MD moves are afoot, and we fully expect there to be more senior departures made public in the not too distant future.

The fintech/crypto currency space remains busy and we are speaking to lots of new clients about their compliance and financial crime needs.

EMEA – Risk

Brexit has had a significant effect on the market – both positively and negatively. We have seen a continued increase in mid-level and senior risk hiring in various European locations including Luxembourg, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Brussels, Dublin and Paris. In many cases this headcount would have been directed at London were it not for Brexit.

Some of the larger investment banks continue to cut staff in risk. This is both for cost-cutting and off-shoring of roles. Poland continues to grow as an off-shore location for credit, market and quantitative risk professionals. Additionally, we have seen tighter controls around signing off on job offers in risk. In many cases this is down to prioritising certain hires and has led to headcount moving from perm to contract. However, the uncertain political situation is also stalling recruitment, especially strategy around senior hires.

Fintechs continue to attract talent away from established banking, especially retail and SME. Flatter structures, broader scopes, less corporate environments and flexible working are key attractions amongst many candidates.

Operational risk continues to grow with investment hiring. Candidates with good product knowledge are in demand, as are those with experience in another discipline of risk or the business.

Quantitative risk, both model development and validation, has also been an active hiring area. This includes pricing, market and counterparty risk model expertise, especially candidates with knowledge of LIBOR transition.

We have seen a return of hiring appetite in cyber risk, most notably in the consulting space. This has been in part down to firms having to replace staff poached by banks.

EMEA – Legal In-House

The financial regulatory space across the sector is thriving. The need for non-contentious regulatory lawyers is still proving to be prevalent in order to help organisations navigate the current economic landscape.

US headquartered clients are still focusing a lot on their European growth and we continue to see developments across teams in Frankfurt, Luxembourg and Dublin.

Hiring within the fintech space has continued to steadily increase with the likes of Monzo, N26 and Orwell all coming to market.

Brexit “issues” have meant that a number of large European institutions have decided that only business critical hires should take place in the UK, although expansion hiring across their European offices are still going ahead.

EMEA – Legal Private Practice

The year has continued strong, despite enduring light peaks and troughs related to the global economy as a whole, as well as uncertainty around the Brexit extension and how long it could last.

While many were hoping for an end to the impasse, others have been asking for an extension that gives investors long enough to be able to “get the deals done”. The one consistent feeling is certainly one of frustration around the handling of the process and the effect it is having on the legal sector.

A number of firms appear to be hedging their bets by beginning to (or at least looking at) bolstering up their restructuring teams in anticipation of a potential slow down, yet still remain bullish with regards to expansion in key areas of corporate and finance.

There have been a number of significant team moves, as outlined above, but no clear trend with regards to practice area. Restructuring, funds, infrastructure/projects and financial regulation remain strong, as does corporate/indirect real estate. The hiring has continued to be dominated by the US firms, particularly those looking to build up a greater London presence. However, there have been a few UK firms, such as Fieldfisher, clearly in growth mode, and a number of others actively looking to expand.

In summary, the forecast for the coming months remains positive yet sensibly cautious.

EMEA – Consulting

The contract market remains consistent even with Brexit delays affecting some clients’ hiring. We have had various opportunities across Europe to grow satellite offices in European hubs – Luxembourg, Frankfurt and Zurich.

SMCR is at the forefront of the asset management sector’s regulatory agenda with the implementation date only seven months away.

We have had an increase in contract hiring in the fintech and cards sectors as new clients move to London and roll out a whole corporate governance recruitment programme. Much of this hiring is interim whilst the perfect permanent solution is found. Financial crime and risk are key areas of focus whilst they go through their FCA application.

We have been particularly busy hiring into market risk at the investment banks and recruiting legal specialists into the asset management and insurance sectors.

The United States

After bonus season this year, there has been a marked surge in hiring activity across compliance, legal, and risk in the US.  Whilst this is typical for the time of year, an increased number of hiring managers have been holding off on filling headcount until they know the results of post-bonus attrition.  Now that pause is over, this activity, plus candidates’ openness to opportunities this year is creating an active market, with many firms competing for strong talent. 

Perception of hiring in the New York City market is slightly distorted by the low hiring activity of the bulge bracket space.  Whilst this can create an impression of low activity, most other areas of financial services in the city seem buoyant. The second and third tier firms are busy hiring, and the buy-side continues to keep us busy with hiring needs in New York plus various hubs around the US, such as Greenwich, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Outside of New York, the regulatory space is buoyant.  We are seeing hiring activity across traditional FS hubs mentioned above, with many firms working to build out their compliance, risk, and legal teams in reaction to new market share.    

Notably, where the bulge bracket firms are more active is in their “nearshore” hubs.  This phenomenon is forever developing which creates demand for talent in various ex-traditional FS hubs such as Jacksonville FL, Salt Lake City UT, Buffalo NY, Dallas/Fort Worth TX and Whippany NY.


Despite the senior level moves in Hong Kong and Singapore in the first couple of months of the year, the international banking groups have been fairly quiet with their hiring over the year to date with an increased focus on cost management and maximizing existing headcount. Whilst many firms will have fairly flat compliance headcount across the year, we do think there will be staff turnover throughout the year due to senior management changes.

Retail and corporate banks with established Asia presence have been more actively hiring in both compliance and financial crime and now find themselves targets for the new virtual banks as well as existing fintech firms who are expanding their compliance teams. The buy side remains active across the traditional and alternative space with a mixture of new headcount and replacement headcount in business / regulatory compliance roles as well as those in investment compliance.

Singapore has seen increased risk hiring, particularly on the credit side in model development, validation and stress testing. This is in response to the ongoing tightening of capital requirements from the regulator for locally licensed banks. Additionally, there has been a pick-up in hiring within consultancies that are supporting banks in new niche areas related to regtech, mobile payments and blockchain.