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Switzerland / Suisse Romande job market report by Anicet Tanghe (May 2010)

Friday 07 May 2010 by Gina Le Prevost

Recognised as the world's capital in private banking, and controlling 40% of the over CHF5000 billion managed in Switzerland, Geneva is also one of the global centres of world trade and international trade financing. There are in excess of three hundred banks listed, and a growing number of literally hundreds of independent asset managers, wealth advisory boutiques and family offices in Suisse Romande and across the country.

A commensurate growing number of traders, bankers, lawyers, accountants and fiduciaries are adding to Geneva's increasingly highly qualified workforce and its burgeoning reputation as a centre of choice for the private client professional.

With 2009 a year of questions and doubts for the financial industry the global economy has continued to show contradictory signals between recovery and further deepening of the crisis, which has been reflected in the job market. Broadly speaking, firms have consequently been cautious with their recruitment strategy, tending more toward consolidation with some selective hiring apparent. It has therefore been very difficult to establish any general trends and therefore to make any calls on future market behaviour.

Switzerland generally, and Geneva specifically, continues to be a jurisdiction of interest to the private client practitioner seeking high quality work in an established and stable environment, albeit one which is changing rapidly in these volatile times.

With 2008 and 2009 behind us, although still a vivid and painful memory, hiring and growth in 2010 are showing some signs of recovery. A recent report released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) predicts, that one in two organisations plan to ramp up recruitment over the coming year. Similarly, a recent study showed that even in weakened jurisdictions such as London, the financial services job market is improving with an increase of 21% of new opportunities in March in comparison to the previous month. It is even more interesting to highlight that compared to the same month last year, openings in March 2010 increased by 83 per cent[1].

If we narrow our scope to Switzerland, a macro analysis of the labour market shows that the employment related to Swiss nationals remained stable, while expatriate hiring increased by 1.3 % [2]. This first point speaks for itself and shows how Switzerland is in need of international talent. If we have a look at the financial industry, we see that positive signs are increasing. According to the Swiss Federal Bureau of Statistics, the financial industry represents 4.8 % of total employment. An estimate made by the STATEM (employment statistics body) reveals that recruitment in the financial industry in the last quarter of 2009 totalled 219000 employees, and was one of the industries which increased its number of staff (+1.5%). It is important to keep in mind though, that Switzerland is a unique case. With the unresolved banking secrecy matter, the outlook of the financial industry remains uncertain. If the government cannot protect the Swiss bank secrecy, it is clear that the marketplace is going to change extensively before and after 2011. Difficult to tell at this time, certain pundits predict that a considerable number of private banks could cease to exist and that jobs numbering in the thousands will be lost[3]. This catastrophic scenario is softened by the pretty good year that banks have accomplished in 2009. It has been speculated that bonuses for staff at Anglo-Saxon banks were paid this year and with sums amounting to close what staff received before the crisis. In Switzerland, 284 out of 327 banks which share their data have published an increase in net profit at the end of 2008[4].

In light of the global crisis and negative spotlight on certain practices, for example in banks, there has been a shift towards more specialist client-focused boutiques, the idea being to put client's interest first or to align them with those of the advisor. We anticipate more growth in this area as firms seek to return to emphasising the 'private' and 'client' in private client.

With regard to hedge funds, onerous new EU regulations coupled with an adverse tax environment in the UK, has prompted the first of a no doubt increasing number of managers to leave London for a more commercially friendly environment.

To coin the French phrase 'qui se ressemblent s'assemblent', key hedge fund players means more hedge funds and hedge fund services firms. It also means more investment bankers and lawyers. Which means more private wealth and more call for qualified private client professionals. With many professionals moving from the UK to Switzerland, UK trained and qualified private client professionals will be in greater demand than ever.  

Private banking industry concerns to one side, the future for the private client professional in Geneva looks positive.
 


[1]"London's Financial Jobs Market Continued To Improve In March - Recruiter", Wealth Briefing, April 15 2010,

[2] Office fédéral de la statistique OFS, communique de presse, 25.02.2010

[3] Edito, Olivier Toublan, Private banking magazine, April 2010

[4] Office fédéral de la statistique OFS, communique de presse, 25.02.2010

This article was written by Anicet Tanghe, a Former Recruitment Consultant for AP Executive, a specialist global private wealth management consultancy.

Article first published in Private Client Practitioner magazine, May 2010