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The scale of the 2008 financial markets crisis was unprecedented, leaving continued uncertainty in the financial services and banking sector.

The fall–out from the financial crisis continues to be felt in the City of London where jobs have fallen by more than a quarter from their 2007 peak, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research. The big banks have undertaken extensive restructuring and cost–cutting programmes that have displaced workers. As they need to redeploy these workers before external hiring can continue, employers have kept new hiring to a minimum – except where they are searching for specialist skills or need to replace a key individual. The outlook is somewhat brighter amongst some City SMEs, which have been less affected by the downturn and have continued to hire into core areas.

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Banks have long been involved in the off–shoring/near–shoring of operational functions in a bid to save money and bring about global efficiencies. This practice has gained momentum alongside their restructuring programmes as major international players seek to reduce their cost bases in expensive locations such as London by moving transactional activities to more economical destinations. On a positive note, the aftermath of this process means that the finance jobs that remain in London are more commercial, more analytical and therefore more highly sought after.

Despite the upheaval, the financial services industry remains an attractive career option for newly qualified accountants. But what was once a stream of ex–Big 4 candidates into product control roles has since become a trickle. This is partly because banks have taken product control roles out of London and partly because the slowdown in the markets has reduced churn. Instead, accounting candidates are used in more of a commercial, value–adding capacity as the City’s corporate and SME businesses look for deeper analysis of their financial performance and internal strategic decision–making.

One key area in which banks still need to recruit, however, is regulation. Banks are under pressure to improve their capital adequacy to comply with Basel III so they have been hiring specialists to work in this area. Also, accountants populate the change management teams that are carrying out large–scale restructuring projects. The fact remains that banks still need considerable numbers of accountants, not so much to do classic accounting work but to undertake detailed analysis of management information or to support the transformation of their organisation. Employers seek candidates with skills in management information, cost reduction, financial analysis, business analysis, change, projects and regulatory work.
View this year's Accountancy & Finance Salary Guide.