Braving it out – but things can change fast

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Figures compiled for most of the top 20 firms this week show they intend to
broadly maintain staffing levels this year.

Intentions toward graduate recruitment are also similar to last year. Only
KPMG has reported a material fall, 20%, in the number of graduates it expects to
take on.

What does it mean? It means the firms expect some service lines, notably
corporate recovery and forensic/fraud investigation to take up the slack for
service lines that are suffering. Grant Thornton reveals this week that its
planned redundancy programme has been reduced by redeployment.

It also means that the firms believe cuts can be managed in some other way.
KPMG’s four-day week is the most radical.

But KPMG has gone early. It was the first to make redundancies, the only one
to reveal a cut in graduates and the only firm to take such an extreme step
towards cost cutting.

That means the other firms could be watching and waiting. If the recession
deepens, if business conditions worsen, prospering service lines will be unable
to continue filling the gap and plans declared now could change.

As dramatic as last year was we remain in the early stages of a recessionary
cycle which is to a large extent unpredictable.

So, while the steady nerves among the managers at the firms are laudable, it
may be that they
are yet to be tested by the full extent of the economic crisis.

And that could mean a very different kind of response.

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