Scots finance facing massive candidate shortfall

A “massive” shortfall of candidates and pressure to significantly increase salaries and perks “makes grim reading” for financial services sector businesses in Scotland, according to a new report.

Core-Asset Consulting’s “Industry Trends and Salary Guide” found that candidates actively applying for roles was down 35%, while recruiters are having to source 57% more candidates than in 2020.

The report said an exodus of international staff due to Brexit, Covid-related career changing and the climate crisis are the main factors which have caused huge employment gaps in certain sectors, leaving the industry at an “uncertain crossroads.”

The guide reports that despite some of the most extreme market conditions ever, the financial services and asset management services industries have remained broadly resilient, with roles such as business analysts, solutions architects and regulatory risk in the highest demand.

However, with vacancies up 52% and applicants down 5% on the previous 12 months, this year’s report highlights a growing staffing crisis across multiple sectors caused by the “perfect storm of Brexit, increased remote working, the cutting of intern and trainee programmes, and the reluctance of many to relocate for work.”

Core-Asset MD Betsy Williamson said that the latest edition of the annual report makes alarming reading for its audience.

She said: “With a predecessor as turbulent as 2020, it was clear that 2021 was going to be another year of unpredictable change within financial services, and the sector is now at an uncertain crossroads with huge hurdles to overcome.

“In contrast to the start of the coronavirus pandemic where many staff were fighting for their jobs, we are now seeing a massively candidate-buoyant market, driving increased pressure on employers to offer better salaries, more flexibility and competitive perks to attract and retain the best talent.

“The reduction in available labour is connected with the UK’s exit from the European Union and the exodus of overseas nationals returning to native soil – with more than 200,000 EU citizens leaving the UK during 2020.

“Additionally, thousands of workers placed on furlough at the height of the pandemic have since switched careers, leaving massive employment gaps in certain industries, while rising demand across sectors like Fintech and Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) has been driving salaries to unprecedented levels …

“Nearly every big business has an ESG strategy and the major investment firms are promoting Socially Responsible Investment portfolios across mainstream media.

“ESG is no longer a box-ticking exercise where investment houses can take the path of least resistance, it is expected that it is now an integral part of the investment process, and this is reflected in the massive surge in employment opportunities in this field.

“Yet there is a shortage of candidates coming through to meet the demand for ESG-related roles.

“We need academic institutions in Scotland to catch up with trends and to encourage undergraduates to consider the benefits of a career in this field.

“Those working in and around the sector must also be encouraged to up-skill.”