Jobs market remains surprisingly resilient despite year of Covid crisis

Recruitment and salaries in finance, insurance and banking have held up

Retail and hospitality aside, the jobs market has remained surprisingly resilient over the last year. Covid-19 undoubtedly had an impact, but it was more pronounced in the early months of the pandemic when firms hit the pause button on recruitment because of the uncertainty. As the year progressed, however, the pace picked up. Initially, activity was centred around hiring for essential roles, but recruitment for new positions quickly followed. Between July and September there was a noticeable spike in vacancies in IT while demand also increased in engineering, pharma and healthcare.

Recruitment for roles in finance, banking and insurance has held up well over the past 12 months and Paul McClatchie, founder of Irish-owned recruitment company Engage People, which specialises in these sectors, is upbeat about the prospects for the rest of 2021. "With mass vaccination on the horizon we are expecting the second half of the year to show economic improvement with more mobility among financial professionals who may have paused a job move during the pandemic because of the risks involved," he says.

McClatchie adds that there has been a marked increase in hires on the accountancy side, especially at senior level, with companies particularly keen to get their hands on finance professionals familiar with the use of business intelligence tools and those with a strong brand name and M&A experience.

Traditional roles

“While we’re seeing a contraction of traditional roles in branch banking, new opportunities are emerging across fintech, compliance, alternative lending and in the payments space with challenger firms entering the market,” McClatchie says. “Insurance and life insurance, financial planning and wealth management have all remained active with a high demand for both brokers and insurers.”


McClatchie says that while the last quarter of 2020 was buoyant, there was a lingering lull post-Christmas. But the market is now moving again and about 60 per cent of the roles his company is filling are with Irish companies. “I wouldn’t describe them as bullish exactly, it’s more that they’ve decided they just need to get on with things. Roughly 70 per cent of the jobs we’re filling are for permanent jobs with the rest for temporary and contract. Contracting has become increasingly attractive to employers as a low-stakes solution when they are hesitant about filling permanent roles.”

Within the investments and funds sector McClatchie says the emergence of disruptive technologies that can relieve labour-intensive and other burdensome functions have created new career opportunities. So too has the rising number of companies in the fintech and regtech space. “Financial data analysis, process automation, regulatory reporting and streamlining financial transactions are major growth areas,” he says.

Engage People recently released its 2021 Salary & Employment Insights Report which shows the salary brackets and hourly rates paid across numerous roles in accountancy, investments and funds, banking and insurance. According to the report, CFO roles are currently commanding salaries of between €150,000-€250,000 with financial director roles in large companies paying between €125,000-€175,000. Salaries for finance directors in SMEs are about €100,000 or a little higher. Finance manager roles are coming in between €65,000-€80,000 with payroll managers earning between €55,000 and €75,000. Top roles in fund accounting are paying between €110,000 and €175,000 while front office investment analyst roles start at about €35,000 for a researcher and rise to about €80,000 for a quantitative investment analyst.

Consistent salaries

Within the banking sector, VP of lending pays between €110,000 and €130,000 with the treasury manager role paying €70,000-€95,000. The salary scale for head of risk is €100,000-€175,000 and for the head of compliance it is €110,000-€165,000. Within insurance broking, commercial account director roles are paying €70,000-€125,000 while underwriting director roles in general insurance are paying €90,000-€130,000 and pension consultants €40,000-€80,000.

“The salaries in our sectors have remained consistent,” McClatchie says. “But one interesting development is where a company has two offices such as one in Dublin and Limerick. Salaries in Dublin are certainly higher. We also have clients that have hired for roles in their second office that would have been in Dublin in the past. These roles typically offer flexible working so the new hire will only attend the office two to three days a week. I think we could see a trend emerging where companies in Dublin have a secondary office in the country with lower salaries. The difference we have seen is 10-15 per cent in base salaries with the same benefits offered in both locations.”

While some people might be contemplating a job move in 2021, others have firmly decided to stay put. Almost half of those included in a recent survey from Matrix Recruitment cited job security as their key concern and over a third now want a job that cannot be affected by future crises. Covid has also had an impact on how people feel about their lives and careers and more than 40 per cent have "fallen out of love" with their job since the pandemic began. The reasons why range from feeling stuck in a rut and being bored to not being paid enough.

"The shift in perceptions is tangible and given the number of people that have lost their jobs or have been furloughed, it's understandable that the idea of what now constitutes the 'dream job' has changed," said Matrix Recruitment's Breda Dooley. "Job security is really important to people right now, whereas pre-pandemic perks such as a free gym pass, lunch, or sleeping pods and games in the office would have often been top of people's wish lists."