Hays sees recruitment squeeze in the banking industry continue

THE boss of recruitment firm Hays said yesterday there was still evidence that bankers were heading overseas as hiring in the sector fell around 10 per cent and pushed its UK division to a £3m loss.

Chief executive Alistair Cox said the recruitment squeeze in the banking industry would persist for “some time” and had spread beyond the UK to markets such as Hong Kong as major players restructure their operations.

The recruiter’s results come as the banking industry faces pressure from all sides, as it battles with volatile markets, weak consumer confidence, increased regulatory heat and criticism over pay.

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The slowdown, which was behind a 1 per cent drop in private sector fees, which make up 78 per cent of UK revenues, prompted Hays to close 12 UK outlets, cutting its total headcount by 4 per cent, including a 2 per cent drop in the number of consultants to 2,071.

However, the wider group was supported by a strong performance overseas, particularly in Germany, leading to a 21 per cent increase in overall operating profit to £63.1m. On the banking sector climate, Mr Cox said: “It’s quite uniform worldwide, not just focused on the UK.”

Across the group, net fees rose 11 per cent to £373.8m on a like-for-like basis, driven by 16 per cent fee growth in Asia Pacific region and 27 per cent fee growth in the Continental Europe and Rest of World arm. Hays announced a 55 per cent cut to its interim dividend to 0.83p, after profit growth slowed to 2 per cent between the first six months of the financial year and the previous six months.