United Kingdom: Financial and Business Services Hiring Surges; Driven by Thriving Cyber Security Sector

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This year began with UK employers more optimistic than the previous year, per the survey results from the first quarter 2016 Manpower Employment Outlook Survey (MEOS). The national seasonally adjusted Net Employment Outlook jumped two percentage points to +7%. Due in part to companies plans to increase hiring in the fourth quarter of 2015 carrying these plans over into the first portion of 2016. These results are encouraging, despite some employers being weary of the introduction of the National Living Wage and continuing uncertainty around Britain’s membership of the EU.

Current market trends suggest that the positive hiring across the nation is being fueled by Britain’s rapidly growing business and financial services sector, particularly high tech areas such as cyber security. Recent high profile data breaches have created a sharp increase in the demand for cyber security experts. ManpowerGroup saw a record number of requests received for specialists with IT security expertise in 2015, four times the demand experienced last year.

Mark Cahill, Managing Director for ManpowerGroup UK said, “There are millions of cyber attacks every day with a total cost to the global economy of up to $575 billion a year. Companies are having to invest heavily to protect themselves and they now believe that cyber breaches are inevitable, with their focus moving to responding to attacks rather than just prevention. We expect the biggest growth area next year to be in ‘cyber security crisis management’, with large organizations bolstering their own in-house security teams as well as calling on specialist contractors.”

“The UK Government announced recently that it would increase spending on cyber security to nearly £2 billion by 2020. This will include improving the level of teaching of cyber skills at schools, which will equip the next generation with the right skill set but there is a pressing demand right now.” Cahill elaborated, “The shortage of people with the required skills means salaries for this new breed of specialists are vast - Christmas really has come early for this in-demand group. Some individuals can command daily rates in excess of £3,000, and some top cyber security specialists can even earn five-figure sums daily. With the potential risk to companies so significant and no signs of demand falling, those sky high salaries look set to continue.”

Caution should be exercised when making plans for the remainder of 2016 hiring despite the positive national picture in Q1 2016. UK employers in all sectors face significant uncertainties later in 2016 as Cahill continued: “The introduction of the National Living Wage in April 2016 is set to send shock waves through the UK jobs market, especially in generally lower paid sectors such as retail, hospitality and social care. Many employers are still working out how much the national living wage will cost them – and how they are going to pay for it – and the picture that will emerge over the coming months may not be all rosy. This is combined with looming uncertainty over the timing and outcome of Britain’s EU referendum. The General Election had the effect of pausing the uptick in employment in April and early May and ManpowerGroup expects Brexit uncertainty to have an even more dramatic impact.”

Finance sub-sector employers anticipate the strongest hiring activity since Quarter 4 2013, reporting a Net Employment Outlook of +13% for this the first quarter of 2016. Hiring prospects strengthen both quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year, improving by 14 and eight percentage points, respectively. In the Business Services sub-sector, job seekers can expect a positive yet cautious hiring climate during Quarter 1 2016, with employers reporting a Net Employment Outlook of +10%. Hiring intentions are five percentage points stronger when compared with the previous quarter and improve by two percentage points year-over-year.

Based on recent reports released in January, of those financial senior executives surveyed an average of 58% expected to create new jobs within the first half of 2016. While 62% of financial services executives predicted an increase in new roles to coincide with the new jobs, roughly double the percentage just three years prior. Slightly over half of the CFOs surveyed expect an increase in finance and accounting roles will occur as a result of new projects and initiatives. While the vast majority of individuals surveyed were confident in their business growth prospects next year, nearly all of the financial services executives surveyed expressed that it is either very or somewhat challenging to find skilled financial services professionals. The retention of top performers was also noted as a concern by nearly 90% of the same individuals.

The competition for skilled financial sector professionals will only increase in the United Kingdom over the remainder of the first half of the current year. It’s expected that higher salaries and incentives for prospective employees will result from the apparent shortage in skilled talent in the labor pool. As the available talent pool shrinks it will become even more important for companies to act quickly when they are able to find a candidate with the desired skill set and desired traits. The growth seen in the financial services sector will only continue to increase the creation of new positions and hiring of workers with skills related to information technology and security. Due to the fact that an organization’s ability to provide their customers with high level financial and business services is so greatly dependent on their IT systems infrastructure and administration, more specifically their cyber security capabilities, job requirements will be even more difficult to meet in the coming months as the United Kingdom continues to be home to one of the most successful financial hubs on the globe.