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Finance Legal Market Update

Posted on December 2020

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Throughout this unprecedented year of 2020, we have seen movements in all industries when it comes to the ever-changing legal recruitment market, especially within the Financial Services space which has seen its fair share of positive and negative impacts from COVID-19. Our Legal team, who exclusively focus on the Financial Services market, have had to adapt to a new way of working and ensure we continue to support the legal advancements in the market. We are pleased to report that it has been another record year for the team, growing 221% over the last 3 years.

Efficient and fast delivery into essential open positions and the continued growth of our candidate/client network has been our priority. We wanted to share an update regarding the trends we are seeing in the Financial Services Legal space due to the impacts of COVID-19 from a candidate and client perspective and discuss what we are expecting to see as we head into 2021.

What skillsets are hot?

We witnessed a slowdown in hiring during the early lockdown months of March and April. However, the demand for Legal talent has stormed back and hiring is once again a priority for many firms. We have seen the following skillsets in high demand:

  • Fund Formation – Legal professionals with fund formation have experience have been highly sought after the last few months; we have filled mid-level and General Counsel level roles seeking this skillset. This is partly a result of new funds being raised to capitalize on the current economic climate. Both private and public markets are quite active and investors are looking to make the most of this.

  • Derivatives – We have seen demand from global investment banks and hedge funds seeking individuals with derivatives expertise. Clients are seeking experience with derivatives structuring, ISDA negotiating, and relevant regulatory compliance experience. While equity derivatives experience was hotter during Q1 and Q2, fixed income derivatives experience has been hotter in Q3 and Q4. Many banks have seen record trading revenues this year as they benefit from the high volatility.

  • Privacy – As the pandemic has accelerated the shift to all things digital, Privacy experience has been in demand. Many Fintech firms have seen an increase in demand for their products and services and Legal hiring for this skillset will help them grow safely. Banks have also been hiring for Privacy attorneys to focus on their consumer divisions as in-person banking is not as common.

  • Trust & Fiduciary – Wealth Management and Trust firms have been adding attorneys steadily across 2020 and the demand has remained consistent. High-net-worth individuals are looking to safeguard their assets in an economic downturn and deal with implications from changes in tax laws over the last few years and potential changes to come under a new political administration. These firms are adding “Trust Counsels” and “Trust Officers,” which are individuals that tend to have law degrees and a strong understanding of Fiduciary laws and responsibilities.

  • Project Finance – The demand for fossil fuels has slowed while the demand for renewable energy sources has grown. PE firms focused on the renewable energy space have looked to hire mid-level attorneys (3-6 years of experience) with experience in project finance related to renewable energy infrastructure.

  • M&A M&A is picking back up again in multiple industries. Large companies are looking to acquire the resources of smaller firms that were more highly impacted. The Technology and Life Sciences industries have been particularly active. Additionally, private M&A lawyers have been in demand at private equity firms over the last couple months. FIG M&A is becoming a hot space as we are hearing from our attorney network that more projects are coming up revolving around acquisitions between financial sponsors and asset management firms. A highly competitive industry is seeing that scale can help outweigh declining profit margins and investors turning away from high-cost strategies.

COVID 19 Hiring Practices – How to run an Effective Process

Evaluating talent in the current environment is certainly different than what we are used to. As most firms are in a work from home setting indefinitely, the ability to meet people in person is difficult. This also presents other challenges that we address below. 

  • Zoom calls and Microsoft Teams meetings – Video conferences have been a backbone in interview processes for many of our clients. What used to be first round phone screens have turned into first round video interviews. For final round interviews that were traditionally all-day in-person meetings, they are now done over video.

  • Evaluating personality/culture fit – This has the been the biggest grievance of not being able to meet people face-to-face. Clients have made a point to have discussions with candidates on non-work-related topics to help assess this. Additionally, we have seen some clients ask for more references than usual and place a bigger emphasis on culture and personality related questions in these reference check calls.

  • Pace of the process – It is easier for processes to move more quickly during the work from home environment as candidates don’t need to find space to get away from the office to take calls or physically go to an office for an interview. As switching jobs during this environment is new for most candidates, we have seen clients space out interviews to keep a pace that is not too quick so that candidates feel comfortable with the opportunity by the time an offer comes out. As opposed to all-day interviews, we have seen clients split final rounds into 2 different sessions to help with this. We have also seen clients offer candidates a chance to have follow-up conversations with hiring managers after final rounds so that candidates can ask any last questions and clear up concerns. This has been one of the most helpful tactics we have seen to quell any concerns that might arise from a process moving too quickly.

Looking Ahead to 2021

We expect the Financial Services Legal space to continue to grow as we move into 2021. Investor and consumer outlook seem to be optimistic as vaccines are being approved and rolled out across the world. We have already started having discussions with some of our clients regarding their hiring plans for next year to get a head start on sourcing talent. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss any hiring needs or would like to have a general chat about trends in the market.

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