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Market Report - January 2024 -

Date Posted: 20/02/2024

Speed read
- Improving macro-economic picture
- Redundancies abating
- Tier 1 banks back to hiring
- Front office tech demand
- Funding unlocking for start/scale-ups


2023 H2 Overview

Whilst the broader Technology and Engineering landscape has seen sustained hiring across multiple sectors, the picture has not been a pretty one across the Investment Banking space in the latter half of 2023. The softening of the market in early summer following the CS, SVB etc events swiftly manifested itself into a blanket hiring freeze across almost all of the main players.

The redundancy rounds seen in a handful of the bigger US banks in early 2023 were repeated and then became a widespread theme across the market with volumes of redundancies as high as we have seen in our 22-year history. Whilst almost all of the banks initiated redundancy / cost-saving initiatives over this period, there was a notable theme of US Banks making the largest cuts, the well-publicised current re-org at Citi hopefully drawing a line under the biggest redundancy rounds.

The mood music at most of the major players, including the US banks, is generally now more positive, or certainly less negative at least, and we await to see which will be the first movers to take advantage of a rare abundance of talent available currently, at all levels.

We expect this availability of talent to increase only further in the coming weeks as Comp is announced and paid. Early indications are of a poor Comp season with disappointing bonuses and lots of difficult messages needing to be delivered and many talented individuals beginning to consider their options.

In contrast to the Investment Banks and the majority of the bigger traditional Asset Managers, H2 saw sustained hiring continue across many Hedge Funds, Prop Traders and Commodity firms as they look to invest some strong returns in recent years into core proprietary Risk, Data and Trading platforms. The flow of talent across from the banks has continued with the considerably higher comp, usually less bureaucracy and overall tech/quant ambition proving compelling for many of the most talented. However recent weeks and months have seen a small handful of Hedge Funds make swathing cuts to their Technology and Strats functions and we wonder if this may become a more widespread theme in 2024.

Cost-cutting priorities have naturally led to closer scrutiny of contractor populations as well and we have seen a number of initiatives to significantly reduce contractor headcount. Encouragingly this has often been coupled with a message of rebalancing the workforce population into a higher % of permanent members of staff and we anticipate 2024 to be a year where hiring is largely centered on permanent talent. Spend via “Consultancies” has, finally, also come under closer scrutiny with much talk around offboarding usually very expensive, often less-capable, resource onsite which has avoided the usual careful spend analysis which precurses hiring through proper TA mechanisms.

Outside of banking H2 saw continued cuts at most of the FAANG firms, with only modest hiring in the main. This continued in January with redundancy announcements from Google, Twitch and Spotify. Talent has been flowing towards those well-funded, even more contemporary, tech-dependent sectors e.g. Digital health/MedTech, Quantum computing, AI, Automotive/self-driving vehicles etc.

We are seeing increasing enquiries from clients in these sectors looking to take advantage of our top Engineering talent pool.


Which skills are in demand?

Engineering roles still lead the way in terms of overall demand, with Python being the most in demand dev language currently, but Java, C# and front-end tools (particularly React) are still prolific with a steady demand for C++, particularly in the Quant/data AI space. This is mainly focused on Front Office investment, candidates with specific FICC E/Algo Trading build experience remain in demand, as do experienced Quant Devs, this hiring being supplemented by junior-mid level high calibre core Engineering candidates with or without industry experience.

Data engineering experience, and related tools, are increasingly required across a variety of roles, with a marked rise in projects to improve or automate data storage, distribution and/or analysis. Snowflake, Docker and Kubernetes expertise continue to remain popular as firms seeks to improve, automate and modernise both their application and data infrastructure.

There remains some residual demand from mid-size banks and Commodities traders for regulatory project hiring, mainly Business Analysts for re-fit projects. Albeit the market for Project/Programme/Change & Transformation staff remains very low with much of this layer being reduced across our client base and any demand in the market being satisfied by internal mobility.



One interesting area has been the rebalancing of Cloud vs on-prem. In recent years there has been a significant drive to push more and more systems / data into the public cloud. A common theme in recent months has been the maturing of these models with a number of clients reversing this trend back to on-prem data centres, referencing increased cloud costs, coupled to improved performance and lower costs of hardware.


What about bonuses?

Lower than last year, potentially +25% down. Even high-profile front office areas seem to be hit with their managers quoting lower overall bonus pools (due to cost cutting) and business/revenue generators being given priority for retention.

Rank promotions and general salary increases also look to be off the table in the main, but we’ll discuss more fully in our next report when we have more data. This could well lead to increased turnover as the market continues to improve.


Hybrid or not

The direction of travel continues to move to more office-based days in the office with some US banks and hedge funds now at 5 days a week. In general, we are seeing 3 days a week as the norm, with fully remote roles now pretty much non-existent in financial services. Perhaps now just the product of start-ups and niche tech firms.


Automotive/AI Tech

There is significant investment in autonomous driving, with advancements in sensors, AI learning and compute power making it possible to create vehicles capable of navigating and making decisions without human intervention.

Government regulations are also changing to allow self-driving cars to test and operate in real life situations. These changes are happening quickly and are forcing automakers to invest in tech companies in the AI/ML space, as well as responding to changing regulations on emissions and safety. This includes not only traditional automakers but also technology companies entering the automotive space, leading to increased innovation and investment. Many automakers are forming strategic partnerships with these technology firms to leverage each other's strengths. These collaborations can accelerate the development and implementation of advanced technologies.

We are seeing significant demand for software engineering (Python, C++) and data science talent from this sector. So far much of the technology has been built by traditional auto suppliers and manufacturers, centred in Germany, Japan and the US, but we are seeing significant demand in the UK and Silicon valley with firms like Cruise, Zoox and Wayve scaling up.


2024 H1 outlook.

2024 looks to be an interesting year ahead. From a macro-economic perspective, the US and UK economies look to be getting inflation under control and the market expects interest rate cuts in Q2 (or earlier), avoiding recession with a “soft landing”.

The downside is the potential political risk, with over 60 countries and nearly 50% of the world’s population voting in general elections this year. In the US and UK, with a potential change of governing parties, this may have some impact. In the US a republican administration has historically been more pro-business, particularly towards Wall Street but also its approach to Silicon Valley and changing legislation governing AI / autonomous driving. Maybe the opposite could be said in the UK with a Labour government but both parties have relatively similar centralist policies.

In finance, Equities, M&A and other primary markets which were quiet last year are now showing signs of green shoots. With redundancy rounds now, hopefully, completed, cost objectives largely achieved, and some business areas having enjoyed a stellar 2023, we predict a slight rebalancing of demand for talent back towards the big sell-side firms moving forwards. Core technology objectives remain as urgent as ever, many teams have been cut to the point where those remaining are over-stretched and merely firefighting and business demand for delivery is becoming intense.

Demand, when it comes, we expect to be focused in similar disciplines and business-areas that were hiring 12 months ago. FICC being prioritised ahead of Equities and Front Office hires being prioritised ahead of downstream functions. Engineering remains top priority, along with Application Infrastructure, Data Scientists/Engineers, Strats and E-Trading experts.

In the Fintech and tech start-up market funding flows seems to be improving, with valuations finding more equilibrium. Tech talent pools will continue to show even more mobility across sectors, with outflows from FAANG and financial services into those emerging sectors / firms highlighted earlier.

Market Report - January 2024

Market Report - Summer 2023 -

Date Posted: 19/09/2023

Speed read
• Demand down but some areas remain robust
• Short term hiring pauses evident
• Contract demand increasing
• Push for 3+ days in the office
• Continued bank redundancies

H1 Overview
2022 was an exceptionally busy year, demand was high following the Covid years and there were a number of factors influencing the low supply of talent (we won’t go into detail here as we have already discussed last year). We saw big salary increases, bidding wars and bonus buyouts, not to mention aggressive counter-offers. But what about this year? Well, we saw strong deal activity in Q1, perhaps contributed in part by 2022 vacancies and headcount, but also a good flow of new requirements, albeit that has become significantly reduced since the Credit Suisse / SVB problems and as we move towards the holiday season.

We have seen a slight lengthening of placement processes (away from the business-critical front office Tech and Strat hires) with less urgency and more restraint on offers. Whilst counter-offers are commonplace in our market we are seeing less aggressive increases. One reason is that many firms have less headroom with the cost-of-living salary increases already baked in from 2022. Whilst candidates still have multiple offers, timelines aren’t always in sync and
competing firms are now perhaps more reluctant to rush through processes and offers.

Whilst the backdrop of the employment market is one of candidate shortages and recent figures (Feb to April) showed there were still over one million vacancies, the market has certainly shown signs of cooling in Q2. In part due to significant events including the failure of SVB and First Republic in the US, followed by the rapid UBS/CS acquisition. Whilst this rocked the sector for a few weeks, and perhaps ignited some retrenching, we did see demand recover once the markets settled. Hiring volumes remain lower but key projects remain priorities and need staffing. Commodity trading/supply sectors remain buoyed from strong results and continue to invest in tech infrastructure. Other key front office areas continuing to enjoy strong trading performances include Rates and FX where commitment to programmes kicked off in 2021/2 remains strong and the war for talent intense. We continue to see some demand within regulation, both new and remediation.

Interest rate volatility has led to some very strong trading results across our Global Markets clients, feeding into significant tech investment, it has also led to a significant reduction in M&A / Advisory fees elsewhere in our clients which would seem to perhaps have begun to put the brakes on sustained hiring across organisations and a higher focus on costs. This, as well as some missteps in other business areas across our banking clients (retail offerings, consumer credit etc), has led to this cooling-off in much of the market and contributed to some significant rounds of redundancies.

What about redundancies?
Several top tier banks have made redundancies, which have been well reported. We have been involved with a number of these programmes through one of our outplacement partners. Whilst there is no getting away from the significant number of redundancies we would add some context to the headlines. Many of the candidates have been at a senior level and in many cases are the result of business re-orgs or ongoing rationalizing across the bank. It is also worth noting that few or no exit programmes were actioned throughout Covid, so since 2019 perhaps some of the annual attrition has aggregated over 2-3 years.
We are seeing ongoing headcount reductions in the tech space, mainly in response to poorer revenue and higher salary costs. Some fintech firms are under pressure from investors to cut costs and get to break-even/profit points, we see this leading to funding cuts and unfortunately company failures. Whilst the more established “winners” in the space are securing further investment, and continue to grow.

Further headcount “pauses”
Call it a headcount freeze, a reflection or a pause but many firms are taking stock of headcount, with line managers needing to sell the case for priority hires. So far these have not been hard freezes with key hires still progressing. This is also not universal across the market, focused mainly on the top tier banks, and particularly those that hired in numbers last year.
Talking to senior tech leaders there is pressure to get stuff done, whether replacing older trading platforms, new regulatory demands, or infrastructure driven
improvements. Cloud migrations, IT security, data improvements all quoted as critical programmes of work. How these demand pressures influence immediate hiring plans is yet to be seen.

Are salaries and rates now stabilising?
In our last report we talked about c.20-30% salary increases last year, that has settled in the main but several firms are still being relatively aggressive to ensure they secure key talent.
The general trend on pay is now levelling off with clients much more conscious of budgets. We are experiencing more push back on candidates who ask for +20% increases.

Contract demand increasing
The previous ratio of permanent to contract hires was c.80:20, this is now sitting somewhere nearer 70:30 for new vacancies. Rates are stable with some hot spots in certain niche skill sets where we are seeing increases. One issue is the shortage of contract candidates, with many favouring permanent roles over PAYE contracts, particularly given the strong base salaries on offer coupled to good benefits. Gone are the days where a Ltd company contract offer trumped most permanent options.

Back to the office
The drive to get staff back to the office continues, with various top-down communications being well reported; some less favourably than others! There appears to be less resistance with the market being quieter, but it’s still proving challenging for anything more than 3 days a week in the office (even perhaps 2 days).
One important point made by a few senior clients is that if they don’t get staff back in the office, they are more likely to get questioned on the need for a high-cost centre headcount – the theory being that if someone
doesn’t need to come into the office in London, why aren’t they using resource from near/off-shore operations.

Which skills are in demand?
Engineering talent is still the most in demand area, with Python becoming the key dev tool in the sector. This year has seen a broader set of requirements with more project driven roles across BA and PM roles than last year. There has been high demand for Quants/Strats at both Investment banks and buy side firms. Talented mid-level candidates continue to be hardest to find, AVP level, again particularly within engineering skill sets, but not exclusively. IT Security and Cloud specialists have seen some strong demand, with candidates not always
attracted to banking when other sectors can often offer more challenging environments.
One observation, which is becoming more prolific, is demand for skill combinations outside the most common skill sets. These vacancies then become hard to fill as often these combinations significantly reduce the candidate pool. Examples include combining specific banking product knowledge with a key development language and experience of a cloud or data product.

H2 outlook
Projections for the remainder of the year are as difficult to predict as at any time before. This is chiefly due to the wildly different performances and situations of different business areas across our client base.

On the positive side, the urgency and importance of building / replacing strategic platforms to retain / grow market share has not changed. These multi-year builds are generally well-funded, business-critical initiatives. Firms were able to commit wholly to these in 2021/22 due to highly performant business results across, Fixed Income, FX and Commodities. These businesses continue to perform strongly. A handful of Tier One firms are making more positive noises about headcount approval in the coming weeks and Commodities Traders continue to invest and hire aggressively.

The other side of the coin sees business lines across Equities, M&A, Asset Management, some online retail initiatives seeing a real downturn, in all likelihood beginning to invite more scrutiny of hiring spend across the group. Additionally, large scale redundancy programmes in many, particularly US
institutions, are rarely followed by a swift return to hiring and the chill from the events in March/April hangs over some of the market still.

The growth in the available talent pool caused by redundancy programmes (including a large number from the now considerably-less-attractive FAANG firms) and cooling in demand, should probably have a flat-lining event across most salary offers for the coming months. Although real SMEs in those highly-profitable business lines will continue to command intense competition with large increases, indicated/guaranteed bonuses and sign-ons continuing to feature strongly.

With some purse strings being tightened we anticipate continued growth for the proportion of roles being signed off on a contract/temp basis. This will be augmented by the natural propensity of firms to hire contractors to plug very specific gaps, against finite deliverables, around the strategic permanent hires made since the upturn in mid-2021.

Market Report - Summer 2023

Market Update. December 2022 -

Date Posted: 04/04/2023

Speed read
•Demand remains strong despite global slowdown
•Salaries and rates stabilising
•Hybrid working models rebalancing to office
•Big Tech = big redundancies
•Talent flight to established corporates
Overall hiring volumes have remained around the same high level as we have reported in the previous 2 half-year summaries. However, this has become more polarised. Those performant Front Office (particularly across FICC) tech functions have ramped up their investment and tech hires yet further, whilst many areas and firms less-focused in these products have shown more caution towards further hiring in some instances.
The summer’s political confusion and, latterly, year-end budget/spend analyses have exacerbated some of these
slowdowns. That said, several Front Office Tech functions are already looking to hire aggressively against their increased 2023 budget, eyeing January starters and urgent delivery deadlines, often regulatory driven (in terms of trading activity).
Are salaries still rising?
The c.20% increases reported last time around have held and in some instances have continued to see an upwards trajectory. Mid-year comp-corrections (up to 30% of base salary) have been commonplace for Code Staff at many institutions and a high proportion of offers are now seeing sign-ons, bonus buyouts and/or guaranteed/indicative bonuses. Counter-offers remain the norm in the market.
London and location strategy
Location strategy has seen London’s re-emergence over the past 18 months as a hiring hub remain, helped doubtless by the weakness of the £, but also the focus back on Front Office investment. Regional hiring remains steady, there has been some reshuffling of offshore/nearshore hubs, often due to the closure of Russian Dev centres.
Big-tech talent drain
The prediction in the last report that the trickle of closures and layoffs occurring in Tech Start-ups / Fintechs would turn into a torrent has largely come to-pass with nervy investors pulling out across the market. This, combined with the well-publicised layoffs and hiring-freezes at FAANG firms, has meant the engineering market has almost flipped, with the flow of talent increasingly heading back towards Financial Markets. This presents great opportunities to clients to attract previously almost-untappable talent.
Permanent vs Contract
The 80:20 ratio of Perm:Contract hiring has remained fairly constant. There were signs of a further pickup in the Contract market but this has been stalled by the flip-flopping on the Off-Payroll (IR35) legislation. We anticipate an upturn in contract demand next year as this issue re-settles, delivery deadlines loom, and clients look to augment their strategic Permanent hires over the past 12-18 months.
There are signs of an uplift in Director+ level hiring as internal mobility options begin to become exhausted and attrition (as high
as 30% in many Front office, particularly Risk/Strat, functions, due to the sheer level of demand on the street), increases.
Still predominantly Engineering hires?
Demand has expanded out of the Engineering/Apps Infra priorities of the last 12 months, into increased BA and PM hiring, as portfolios of projects continue to grow across these well-funded multi-year initiatives. The majority of Front Office Engineering hires, particularly with any Risk/Strat involvement, are now falling under business headcount, out of technology, reducing further the constraints on compensation levels being offered.
Python and Java remain the key development languages; React/JavaScript on the front end; AWS the main cloud solution although most specs are vendor agnostic; Terraform, Docker, Ansible and Kubernetes all feature heavily.
Hiring success rates
There remains a huge disparity in time-to-hire between clients. Smaller firms continue to exploit their ability to turnaround offers and onboarding in a matter of a few days, but some bigger players also prioritising time-to-hire and minimising to a couple of weeks. Other firms though, particularly through passive approaches to interview scheduling, approvals, contract generation, screening etc are taking up to 4 months and seeing a high dropout rate.
More skilled immigration?
There is a general willingness across the market, like never before, to sponsor candidates, which is solving many recruitment headaches, if not the time-to-hire (given increasing backlogs in visa approvals). This is one area where the government may make changes before the next general election, with recent comments from Rishi Sunak’s team favouring more skilled immigration from potential trading partners (e.g. India). This may well open up significant volumes of tech talent, particularly Software Engineers.
Are we still talking about hybrid working?
Flex working arrangements are settling across the street with most firms committing to a 2/3 day split (however structured), with only a few outliers insisting on 5 days a week in the office, or allowing full-time remote (albeit perhaps 10% of candidates are now insisting on the latter).
What about 2023?
General comment from most of our clients is that 2023 will see continued hiring, at levels similar to that which we have seen in 2022 – if a little more focused in specific product lines and with an increase in contract/temporary hiring volumes. That said, global recessionary pressure may well start having more of an impact on our sector if volatility abates and investors begin sitting on their hands. Currently most of our banking clients are seeing strong revenues and the general view is this will be maintained for the foreseeable enabling ongoing investment in Tech. Those Fintech firms with a sound commercial offering (and positive P&Ls) are thriving, benefiting from increased spending from the Banks. We believe we will see Fintech investments decline overall and consolidate on the sector winners with less successful firms failing. Changes in the visa system could open up new labour markets but this is unlikely to impact short term supply. Hybrid working arrangements may continue to creep towards a more office-based balance, although a five day return is unlikely.


Market Update. December 2022

Thomson Keene celebrates 20 year anniversary! -

Date Posted: 23/03/2022

This week is Thomson Keene’s 20th birthday (well incorporation day!). Conceived in a bar in Meribel in the French Alps with Julie Thomson, we set out to build a firm which would prioritise quality over quantity, long term partnerships over spot business with delivery at its core.  Whilst our DNA and culture has been refined over the years those core principles remain. 

As we now grow and continue our journey further I want to reflect on that time and thank past and current colleagues for the part they have played – some significantly (you know who you are). 

Putting together a presentation for later today I realised what an amazing client list we have. From Global Investment banks to seed funded start-ups, many of which have been with us since the very early days; I thank you for your continued support and partnership. To our network of candidates, both old and new, many of you we have placed multiple times, thank you for allowing us to further your career or find your next assignment.

We celebrated at Oblix in the Shard, stunning views, live music and fabulous food - and a few cocktails might have been consumed! 

Thomson Keene celebrates 20 year anniversary!


Date Posted: 02/03/2022

Thomson Keene is pleased to announce that we have recently hired Alex Williams as Chief of Staff to help with our current growth plans. We welcome Alex back to TK after him starting his career with us 14 years ago, where he progressed to Account Director in less than 4 years, delivering into some of our key Investment Banking clients. The following years, post TK, has seen Alex continue to work with Financial Markets clients, running a book of SOW consultants for S&H Consulting and more recently in Enterprise/Mid-Market Sales roles for LHH, Adecco’s Organisational Change business.
Alex is running the Client Delivery, Research and Customer Success functions with a growth agenda to increase headcount and revenues still further. #fintechrecruiter #growthmode


Market Update December 2021 -

Date Posted: 27/01/2022

H2 2021 has seen the London Market rebound to overall levels of demand comparable with any peak in the market over the last 10 years. We probably need to wind the clock back even further to find such a high proportion of London clients actively hiring in earnest, or to find a comparable level of demand for engineers.

The drivers behind this are manyfold, if largely obvious:

•The pre-Covid sense amongst many institutions that their position in certain markets was under some threat through their technology platforms being outperformed by existing competition, or new market entrants, has obviously remained and only been exacerbated by the Covid hiatus on onboarding new talent.

•Many trading functions have returned strong profits in the past 18 months, resulting in funding for tech investment being easier to secure and a return to a focus on front office technology hiring.

•The largely engineering-centric focus of technology functions has presented challenges in terms of internal mobility, resulting in an increased need to source externally.

•Non-revenue-generating initiatives in the Reg space are less of a feature than in many of the previous years and the dial has moved from technology being viewed through a cost-saving lens and into a long-term investment, revenue-generating function. off/near-shoring is more frequently viewed as a less good option and direct recruitment functions are unable to deliver significantly against the more competitive engineering/apps infra hiring we see today.

•Despite the time of year, attrition is naturally becoming a feature and we expect this to only accelerate.

•The Financial Markets are losing an increasing amount of engineering talent to FAANG and similar smaller non-financial (for now?!) software-centric firms.

•Decisions around individual firm’s approaches to the amended IR35 legislation have been formulated, implemented and its impacts have now played out. More firms are now paying the employment costs for PAYE contracts in response to the market, which in effect increases day rates.

Agile working
The shift to a more Agile way of working has seen the market for Project/Programme Managers, BA’s etc remain supressed (albeit having picked up a little recently) and, again unsurprisingly, we are seeing around 85% of our client demand focussing on engineering and application infrastructure hiring, with the CyberSec/Infosec/Secops market also strong.
Which development languages are in demand?
Engineering hires remain focussed on Java hiring, with Python demand continuing to increase, possibly now to Java levels. C++ demand has increased with the shift back to front office investment. Apps infra competition is high for talent with expertise around cloud technologies (AWS being the most dominant cloud provider across our client base) and devops. This market is particularly challenging as the talent pool for hands-on, non-managerial, junior-mid level technologists is relatively small, experienced apps infra candidates often overshooting client briefs in terms of comp-expectations, or short on demonstrable commercial experience.
How are clients responding?
Few clients are seeing anything other than their list of open engineering hires grow, competition is intense and increasing. But some of our clients are making headway, onboarding strong volumes of talent, whilst others are losing out. We thought it would be helpful to share our observations around the approaches to hiring that we are seeing to be successful in the current market;

•This obviously isn’t 2020. But nor is it a hiring climate remotely comparable with previous years. Previous established interview processes, comp decisions/benchmarks and understandings of optimal candidate-experience are largely out of the window. Those firms who understand this are winning.

•Successful clients have moved very quickly on good candidates and make offers in-line with the current market rather than previous benchmarks or pegging offers to current comp.

•Given the time of year we are seeing most clients offering to buy out and/or guarantee (or give written indication of) bonuses.

•Successful interview-processes are agile. Tailoring the focus and interview panel of each round as best suits promising candidates, amalgamating interviews where possible and eliminating rounds which are largely unnecessary or duplicative. Interviews are becoming two-way – understanding not just whether the candidate is suitable for the role and firm, but also understanding the personality and specific commercial/technical interests of the candidate and adjusting future interviews in line with this. An initial 30 minutes two-way exploratory chat explaining the role and understanding candidate motivations lays a good foundation for engagement through the process.

•The above often leads to an offer (not a request) to speak to others in the firm that the candidate may enjoy talking with – stakeholders from the business, senior technologists, sometimes from other teams/regions who can discuss and demonstrate, outside of an interview, the culture, reality and ambition of the firm/team.

•Some clients still have a process lasting 4-6 weeks from a successful interview process to a contract being received, as internal final approvals and contract generation are completed. Needless to say, these firms usually see themselves miss out on prospective hires.

•At least 50% of our candidates – particularly on the mid-level engineering side – will not entertain roles requiring a presence five days a week in the office. Whilst this is obviously often a high-level corporate decision rather than down to individual managers, it has a big impact on attracting talent.

•Direct engagement from a hiring manager or similar, post-offer, pre and post resignation, is highly effective at ensuring candidates remain clear in their mind as to why they’ve decided to join a client and at augmenting our ongoing management of the candidate.

2022 and beyond
Whilst some clients continue to tweak their processes to optimise success rates, some will need to have a more comprehensive reform in order to at least partially achieve their hiring objectives in 2022 – most clients suggesting it being a year that they will “ramp up” hiring yet further. We expect to see no let-up in the demand for engineers with demand increasing across other skills sets with more project roles. This will likely impact contract demand with clients looking for alternative hiring channels.

We would estimate that on average candidate compensation offers across both permanent and temporary engagements have risen by around 20% since May 2021. We expect salaries and temp-rates to continue to rise through 2022, the ceiling may well be determined by those deep-pocketed, tech-centric players outside of the industry against whom many financial institutions will be competing with for talent.

Contact us for the full PDF report including salary and rate analysis.

Market Update December 2021

Market Update November 2020 -

Date Posted: 08/12/2020

We never imagined back in early 2020 that our third market update of the year would yet again be one dominated by the effects of the ongoing Covid situation. However, we are pleased to report that finally there does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel on the demand side with considerably brighter times in prospect for the sector in 2021. This update will attempt to provide a high-level overview of trends we have seen over the year and our expectations for Q1 2021.

Key market headlines
•The Tier One banks, previously very quiet, are now moving forward with external hiring, with 2021 budgets secured, volumes are getting back to c.50–60% of pre-Covid levels.
•There would seem to be a correlation between those houses not hiring externally and those having announced significant cost cutting / redundancy measures pre-Covid.
•Internal mobility has been a priority for many institutions, particularly those without a long-term objective of headcount reduction and a commitment to minimising redundancies during the pandemic. This has also suppressed external hiring in these institutions.
•Many SMEs / Mid-Tier banks remain active in the market, reflecting an absence of practical hurdles to hiring, and some strong revenues in their key business areas.
•Specialist trading shops, hedge funds and Fintechs have been the most active, +75% of all hires made since March.
•In particular well-funded specialist Fintech firms have been able to secure strong talent in a less competitive market, challenge will be keeping staff once salary differentials and demand from the big houses increases.

Remote working
Unsurprisingly, given the second Covid wave, there appears to be little change to the remote working policies of most institutions with some clients committed to long-term flexible / part-time home working. Q2 being targeted as the earliest possible return date by some firms and some already telling staff not to expect to return to office-working in 2021. As referred to in previous updates, this will possibly have profound effects on available talent-pools in the UK and render “location strategies” largely irrelevant.

Digital only hiring
We have talked about this since March, whilst the SME market was quicker to adopt new on-boarding and HR processes to allow hiring to continue, even the largest organisations have now fully embraced and embedded a digital only interview and onboarding process. We live in strange times where many employees haven’t ever met their colleagues or visited the office.

Contracting and IR35
Given some of the above constraints to permanent hiring, there is a moderately disproportionately high contractor-demand. Most banks are not allowing PSCs and we are just beginning to see a market correction in contractor rates (5–10%+ increases) for those most in-demand profiles. With PSC engagement expected to be largely universally shelved across the street in March, allied with the expected increase in demand, we would expect to see rate increases of 10–20% within those in- demand skill sets. This will become established over at least the medium term. Contractors have looked to maximize their rate knowing the conversion to PAYE looms if going into a PSC engagement. There is also some traction on social media around ensuring companies pay “their share of tax”, with an emphasis on employers National Insurance, so one to watch for clients “converting” PSCs to PAYE.

Firing freezes
Those banks which had announced redundancy programmes were quick to ensure they applied a firing freeze, but this obviously just delays execution until 2021. Albeit most of these programmes are outside tech and seem to focus on branches and infrastructure within retail and commercial divisions rather than Markets Tech.

What’s in demand?
Strong financial performance in some business lines, particularly Markets, have been borne-out in better quarterly numbers and these are chiefly in those areas highlighted in our last report (at those clients/business lines where profit is closely linked to increased flow or volatility (Equity execution, Hedge Funds, Commodities and Fixed Income)). E.g. UBS recently reported their best Q3 in a decade. The larger, full-service banks with significant retail and commercial divisions have had to make significant bad credit provisions for Covid.
More specifically we have seen demand in:
•Front office FIC / etrading.
•Commodities, chiefly driven by some of the later deadlines for regulatory obligations to be fulfilled.
•Equity Execution / Algo.
•Client/Exchange Connectivity.
•Digitalisation – client Digital experience being more important than ever.
•Liquidity / Collateral (again Reg Driven – UMR etc).

For what roles?
•Software Engineers / Developers, across the usual Java, Python, C++ landscape, working in highly Agile environments (to which almost all firms are now totally committed and structured accordingly). This is where the bulk of demand is and will remain as clients look to direct improved profits to improve system performance and improve capabilities to clients.
•Cloud, DevOps specialists. Again, large scale commitment in this direction.
•Some Business Analysts! (Front office product facing and Reg programmes referred to above).
•Quants / Quant Devs.
•Connectivity / FIX Support Analysts.
The demand for Project and Programme Managers in the Tech or Business Change space remains very suppressed.

Employee Experience (EX)
With a huge amount written about mental health and wellbeing it is good to see authentic responses from several banks. Those that have been flexible and made life easier for employees through this period have earned some loyalty and employee “stickiness” which will result in the ability to retain more staff. The emergence of Chief Wellbeing Officers is embryonic but perhaps necessary within technology (rather than HR). We have found that many of our clients and candidates have been working even longer hours than pre-Covid, and whilst most experienced no productivity drop initially (some even reported increases), we are perhaps starting to see more of the negatives of remote working emerging. Many senior contacts have expressed concern that the lack of more informal “water cooler” moments are impacting relations between business and IT, across different IT functions and general team cohesion.

Candidate liquidity
Whilst the supply side may well appear strong for hiring, we have found candidates being much more cautious and unpredictable, perhaps understandably. We are still witnessing multiple offers for those very niche engineering skill sets with more counter offers, and last-minute extensions for contractors. Those in work or latent candidates are less engaged with headhunted approaches, but we see this changing into 2021 as the uncertainty in the market abates. We therefore must work even more closely with clients to ensure we are engaging talent more deeply through the hiring process and offers are competitive.

Predictions for 2021
•Unfortunately, sooner or later, we expect some significant rounds of redundancies in those organisations committed to this pre-Covid and also in those areas/functions negatively impacted.
•A number of Tier One banks have already indicated significant increases in hiring slated for Q1.
•A rebalancing of the Perm:Contract hiring ratio (also as a result of the IR35 changes if they go ahead in April 2021).
•Significant competition for engineering talent across banking, fintech and other sectors.
•Reflection and reorganisation a key theme across the street, with changes in key leadership and strategy likely at several firms.
•Decreased bonuses in many areas, with revenue generators / key talent being a priority.
•An overall significant uptick in external hiring volumes, perhaps at, or above, pre-Covid levels, with greater flexibility around UK location.
•Potential hiring for hard-Brexit scenario.

In summary, whilst the marketplace has been hit hard by the pandemic this year, this is not a downturn caused by, or causing, a systemic problem or failure within the sector, such as those we have seen before and, as such, and on the back of some strong results, we look forward to a considerably brighter and busier 2021.

Market Update November 2020

Market Update - August 2020 -

Date Posted: 18/08/2020

We hope this email finds you and your families well, and beginning to enjoy some additional freedoms.  As we ease out of lockdown and into a different phase of the pandemic we want to keep you up to date with how the market is responding.

  • The past 2 months have seen a slow but steady upwards trajectory in the market towards pre-lockdown activity levels. But there is still a long way to go and many of the encumbrances to hiring in earnest as a result of COVID remain. Volumes are probably at around 25-30% of pre-Covid norms. Mainly contract at larger organisations and a mix of contract/permanent elsewhere.
  • More firms have accepted the need for, and implemented the capability to, complete front-to-back hiring and on-boarding processes without the need for any face-to-face meetings. Since lockdown a significant number of candidates who have started new roles through us have still never met any of their colleagues or managers face-to-face. This has in the main taken larger organisations more time to put in place but this is now almost embedded across the street and seems to be working well.
  • Demand for Tech hiring remains as having a high proportion of roles related to the current circumstances (security, networking, cloud, chat), but we have heard a lot more around business numbers looking very good at those clients/business lines where profit is closely linked to increased Flow or Volatility (Equity execution, Hedge Funds, Commodities and Fixed Income) and expect this to translate into Tech investment in the coming weeks and months – particularly if the organisation is not simultaneously hamstrung by divisions potentially heavily exposed to the pandemic (eg Corp Banking). This investment is likely to return to being heavily Dev-centric as they look to improve systems performance and improve capabilities to clients.
  • IR35 positions now seem well-established at all organisations (albeit the government may yet delay further..)
  • We have now had some clients confirm their long-term commitment to permanent flexible/remote working, at least 2-3 days pw.
  • We expect this to become the norm across the majority of the market.We are expecting candidate supply to be extremely strong in the coming weeks and anticipate redundancy programmes (whether announced pre-Covid (eg. HSBC, DB), or as a result of Covid) to begin being implemented.
  • The Development (Java, Python, C++…) and Dev Infra (Cloud, DevOps etc) market we expect to move from “modest” to “busy” shortly. The Change / Programme Delivery market remains extremely flat and we believe is unlikely to return to previous levels again.
  • We are seeing, and expect to see more, of the mid-sized, more conservative, less diversified players, increase hiring volumes to take advantage of favourable market conditions, at the expense of any hamstrung larger players. This would also apply to established and well-funded (or profitable) newer market-entrants.
  • The location strategy situation remains largely unchanged at present but we believe there are many questions that are now being posed by the new, post-Covid, remote working world.  Location strategy may well become irrelevant within individual countries and opportunities to pull talent from ever larger geographical regions may well be one of the defining impacts to 21st century working practices.

So whilst there is optimism around some, potentially quite strong business-driven demand, this is tempered by other exposures and broader corporate/macro issues, resulting in a mixed picture across the market.

Thomson Keene works with a mix of SME and global corporate clients providing a bespoke, high quality recruitment solution across permanent and contract technology hires.  We are keen to engage with old contacts as well as forging new relationships at this time of change.  Please get in touch with us for any help and advise, whether a candidate or a prospective client.  Stay safe. 


Market Update - August 2020

Market Analysis June 20 -

Date Posted: 13/07/2020

We hope that all those in the Thomson Keene network are remaining physically and mentally well, as we all begin to lose count of which week of lockdown we are soon to tick off.

As everyone adapts to the lockdown market and adjusts working practices accordingly, the roadmap to a return to normal, or whatever normal will look like, remains unclear. We all hope that the coming few weeks will offer some clarity, and we can begin to glimpse what the rest of 2020 will look like out there.

Continue reading..

Market Analysis June 20

TK - Covid-19 Update -

Date Posted: 30/03/2020

Dear clients and candidates,

Firstly, I wish you all, your families and colleagues well at this challenging time.

At Thomson Keene, we are now at the end of our 2nd week working remotely.  We have (relatively!) seamlessly transitioned to home working thanks to cloud-based applications and extensive use of Zoom.  Although we are not working together in the office our collaboration, client delivery and candidate care has not been diminished.

Many of our clients are still actively hiring, using various video tools to conduct interviews and technical assessments.  We have already seen offers made with no face to face meetings, with many clients adapting their onboarding processes accordingly.  Our Human Resources and RPO partners are finding swift and innovative solutions.

Even with the welcomed respite of the delay to IR35 reforms, the coming weeks will see unprecedented and very challenging circumstances requiring us all to work even more closely as a team and support our network.  We remain ready to help and able to deliver short term remote working contractors to plug any gaps should this be necessary.


Please call us if you would like a general chat or more info.

Stay safe.

Andrew, Dan and team TK

TK - Covid-19 Update

TK Market Update 2019 -

Date Posted: 10/12/2019

Our latest Market Update highlights the key themes for 2019 and a few predictions for 2020. 

please click the link below 

TK Market Update 2019

And of course, if you'd like to chat to one of team about any topics in more detail, please get in touch - info@thomsonkeene.com

TK Market Update 2019

Gender Pay Gap -

Date Posted: 22/05/2019

Gender Pay Gap Update

It has been over a year since gender pay gap reporting became law and it has become one of the biggest business stories of the year.  Our banking clients are hitting the headlines as one of the most unbalanced sectors.

The reports have shown that there are less than 10% women in higher paid jobs, women’s bonuses can be one-third lower, and overall men are paid on average 20% more than women.


Gender Pay Gap

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