CFOs facing a potential recession are contemplating hiring freezes and cutbacks as a way to streamline costs.
Forty-two percent of CFOs are looking to reduce or more closely manage their operating expenses as a hedge against inflationary pressures, Deloitte’s recently released Q3 CFO Signals study found, while 23% are moving to control headcount, limit hiring and increase productivity.
August data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released Friday found employment in financial services grew 17,000 for the month and 200,000 for the year, however, meaning financial departments are still facing a tight and competitive market for talent. Financial institutions and departments looking for top talent in key areas must understand the way hiring trends have changed since the advent of the pandemic, therefore.
The rising importance of technology-related skills across numerous industries has made it essential for such businesses to begin examining candidates that come from spaces outside of the financial world, Kareem Bakr, managing director for financial recruitment firm Selby Jennings, said in an interview.
“The biggest change that we’ve seen over the past three, four or five years, is really the fact that the financial services world and the banks and the hedge funds are not just looking at tech savvy people inside of finance, they’re looking out of industry,” Bakr said. “So they are really now open to entertaining someone who has a good tech background.”
Selby has a heavy focus within technology risk management, quant analytics, quant research and actuarial sciences — the areas that are business critical, with “greater demand than supply for talent,” Bakr said. Hiring trends among the firm’s financial service and insurance clients have therefore remained relatively robust, despite market turbulence, he said.
Employers added 315,000 jobs in the month of August, according to BLS data, a cool down from last month’s 526,000 jobs that may ease pressure on the Federal Reserve to clamp down on inflation.
Hiring needs and employee preferences have also changed in the post-pandemic world, however. For example, at many companies the question is not if they will offer remote work, but how flexible that offering will be, Bakr said.
An analysis of LinkedIn jobs by the Harvard Business Review found the number of U.S. paid job postings offering remote work jumped from 2.3% in February 2020 to 19.5% by the end of February 2022, according to an Aug. 4 article.
Companies’ tech stack is also beginning to play a deeper role when it comes to hiring within the financial space, he said, especially given the increasing overlap of candidates from the fintech or big tech spaces looking to make a move into financial services.
“If I’m a candidate [who] wants to join that that firm, am I excited about…my ability to get stuck in meaningful projects and work with technology that I may not have access to at my current firm?” Bakr said.
The changing tech market
Data from technology-focused career site Dice released Aug. 23 shows an increase in tech-related jobs even for “non-tech core business models,” including manufacturing, retail and hospitality as well as financial services. Tech-related job postings surged by 89% year-over-year from May 2021 to May 2022, per the report, despite a seasonal drop between this May and June.
August BLS data also found professional and business service positions, including computer systems design and management and technical consulting, grew by 68,000. The sector has added 1.1 million jobs over the last 12 months, according to the Labor Department.
“The way that the world is evolving now, technology is at the root of everything,” Bakr said. “And to be able to say you’ve had some exposure to either coding or working within a more technological and technology driven environment is definitely going to help your case across the board.”
Both technology firms and financial institutions have notably pulled back on hiring in recent months, pointing to macro level challenges such as inflation after periods of rapid growth following the impacts of the pandemic.
Shopify, for example, cut approximately 10% of its global workforce in July after doubling its headcount over a two-year period beginning in 2020, according to an Aug. 3 report by CNBC. Banks that swelled their ranks during the pandemic — including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley — have since slowed hiring, meanwhile, with Goldman Sachs now considering year-end job reductions.
CFOs have also cut their expectations for both domestic wages and salaries as well as hiring, according to Deloitte’s Q3 CFO Signals study — while both were at 5.3% the previous quarter, financial executives have whittled down expectations to 4.8% and 2.6%, respectively.
Yet overcorrecting could lead to more struggles for companies in the long-term, Bakr said. Businesses that take short pauses on hiring to “get their ducks in a row” and then carry on with future plans usually wind up coming out stronger at the end of the year, he explained, whereas companies that implement months-long hiring freezes will wind up falling behind their competitors.
“Those individuals are behind the eight ball because the good talent is constantly getting scooped up,” he said.