Redundancy: a chance for change

With 90 jobs going in KPMG’s corporate finance department, there is no
denying the impact of the credit crunch on accountants who have made hay as the
good times have rolled in mergers, acquisitions, private equity and leveraged

There is no longer the recruitment feeding frenzy that we saw a year ago –
the major investment banks, and others, have moved from hiring to firing.

So, if you have just been given your marching orders, the future doesn’t look
particularly bright. Or does it?

Much will depend on where you set your sights. The big boys might not be
coming out to play, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has packed up and gone

As Christine MacKenzie, associate director at City recruiters Morgan McKinley
says: ‘As a number of bulge bracket investment banks have slowed their corporate
finance recruitment, some of the smaller boutique investment banks have seen
this as an opportunity to access a strong candidate pool due to reduced
competition from the larger players.’

These are firms that might have been priced out of the market last year, but
are still in a position to take on experienced corporate financiers – it could
be your opportunity to be a bigger fish in a slightly smaller pond.

Simon Norris, consultant at recruiters WH Marks Sattin, agrees, having
recently placed candidates at some leading boutiques. He says: ‘For those that
have been made redundant from the larger banks, they may have very strong CVs
and been performing well but have become victims of the credit crunch. But
opportunities for them can be found in boutique firms, places that traditionally
would not have been able to pick up bankers with that quality of experience.’

This is a view also held by Clive Davis at Robert Half International.
‘Experience is highly valued,’ he says, but warns that ‘the edge might be
slightly with the hirer, who can pick and choose a little bit more now that they
are not priced out of the market’.

So if you still have the appetite, the jobs are there in corporate finance.
But why limit your search? Now might be the time to broaden your horizons and
strengthen your CV.

An obvious destination would be towards the turnaround community.

‘We are seeing activity in distressed debt and credit funds – there are a lot
of struggling businesses out there and candidates from a strong M&A
background or leveraged finance are of interest to these funds,’ says Norris.

However, it may take a little while before recruitment activity really picks
up in these areas. Restructuring or work-out teams were quite prominent within
investment banking about four to five years ago. But as the market grew stronger
there was less demand for them and so the majority of these individuals were
seconded to other areas within the banks.

In light of the current turbulence, some of these teams may be reforming,
believes MacKenzie, but she adds: ‘Headcount is likely to be sourced internally
first. As yet, we haven’t seen a rise in the number of corporate restructuring
roles, but this is likely to change over the next six months.’

Or what about a move to another type of business? Now might be a good time to
switch from financial and to commerce and industry, particularly if you are a
newly qualified ACA looking for your next move. Norris comments: ‘We haven’t
seen many from M&A or leveraged finance saying that they want to move into
being, say, a commercial analyst in a large industrial player. But we have seen
it more on the ACA side where people that would have traditionally been very
good candidates for M&A and leveraged finance are now looking to get
industry knowledge and strengthen their CV that way.’

This is, of course, good news for the commercial recruitment guys who are
picking up talent that would not normally be available.

And if you are feeling nervous, it might be an idea to jump now while you
can. Redundancy will always raise questions, no matter the circumstances, and
it’s a cliché, but finding a new job is always easier when you’ve already got

Home or away?

Why not look on this as an opportunity – for those that are footloose and
fancy-free, a spell overseas could make sense.

Robert Half International has just opened an office in Dubai and one of its
consultants, Clive Davis, can see plenty of opportunities in the region,
combined with a very attractive lifestyle.

Simon Norris of WH Marks Sattin agrees. ‘The banks in places like Dubai still
have the budget to hire. If your experience matches up to their requirements
then now would be a good time to go,’ he says.

This is echoed by Christine MacKenzie of Morgan McKinley. ‘There are also
good international corporate finance opportunities, particularly in emerging
markets such as Russia, the CIS, and Asia,’ she says but advises caution.

‘Languages relevant to the region are essential for these types of roles and
without them a move would be challenging.’

Davis also makes the point that many that work in the City are not from
London. Could this be a good time to move closer to home? The regions in the UK
are still looking for those with top-flight City experience.

‘This is something that is often overlooked,’ Davis says, noting that people
can move to the major cities around the country and bring with them a wealth of
experience and be well-regarded in those communities. And again, these would
have been areas that would have been priced out of the market a year or two ago.

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