Spring recruitment update for marketing, communications and digital professionals in the UK, with tips on how to maintain momentum in your career.
There was a solid start to the year; January took a few weeks to get started but then things really took off in the final weeks of the month, with more hiring decisions being made. However, there is no doubt that from March onwards, we were moving into more uncertain times in all markets with the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.
Bonuses were not as good as previous years but employees were generally unsurprised having been exposed to the market first hand last year.
On the interim side, there has been an increase in roles on PAYE or FTC basis due to IR35 regulation. Across industries, most roles in marketing, communications and digital were deemed to be ‘inside IR35’ and therefore a number of Limited Company Contractors have had to migrate to a PAYE or Umbrella model to continue their contracts from April 2020. Whilst the recent Government news means that some firms will now delay their IR35 implementation until April 2021, as a lot of time, effort and resources has been put into it already, some firms have continued with their determinations.
The majority of roles coming through were at junior-mid level, including Executive, Manager and Senior Manager job titles. There were several redundancies at Director-level following restructures, reorganisations and cut backs in the market as a result of continued pressures and increasing competition in the market. Furthermore, such changes to senior management and board members have meant there have been a number of ‘shake ups’ leading to changes in organisational structure and in some cases, redundancies.
Now that we are in unprecedented market circumstances with COVID-19, we saw all interviews move from in-person meetings to video conferences or telephone calls and businesses had to adjust quickly and facilitate onboarding new joiners remotely.
We saw a steady flow of permanent opportunities in the first quarter, with particular demand for RFP Writers, generalist marketing professionals and Presentations Specialists with the ability to write product content.
The majority of opportunities were replacement hires for those who moved after bonus payments at the end of last year, although we have seen some permanent opportunities arise to respond to headcount growth or to make temporary roles permanent.
From a contract perspective, off the back of IR35 regulation and the recent IR35 delays, we’ve seen more Fixed Term Contracts over day rate contracts as HR teams are still working out their positioning. However, this might slow down now with the Government’s recent announcement to delay it to April 2021.
We have seen little recruitment on the permanent banking side for the first quarter but that is not an uncommon theme year-on-year. Many of the larger banking clients have called hiring freezes off the back of Brexit and IR35 implications and have been slow to pick up from there.
Furthermore, Banks tend to ‘take stock’ at the start of the new year and wait until bonuses are paid before igniting their hiring plans. So far, most teams in Corporate Actions have been happy with the levels of payout and are, overall, satisfied for this year, accepting 2019’s economic state for what it was.
Following restructures, there have been a number of redundancies particularly at the senior end, Director and above, as roles have been amalgamated into one headcount. Internal mobility has been a common theme across the board as banks try to move those at risk into roles internally.
Roles that have come out to market have been mid-level with salaries ranging from £40,000 - £65,000 per annum - more than likely due to roles being generalist in nature. There has been an increase in Marketing Manager and Communications professionals to cover both internal and external, with less specialist/niche hires coming out to market.
On the contract side, there was more demand for Events Specialists, Presentations Specialists and Graphic Designers in January, however, since then this has perhaps tailed off as companies focus efforts on their existing contractor base, rather than hiring.
In terms of Digital, as the banking industry continues to target a wider demographic including the millennial market, legacy banking channels such as branch networks and contact centres are being challenged by the rise of new shadow and neobanks such as Monzo & Revolut, who focus on pure digital channels such as online and mobile banking apps. Whilst customer acquisition has been a focal point for these organisations, there have been questions of how these businesses scale up and move towards profitability. How they tackle this next challenge, now that they have a solid presence in the market, will most likely define the direction the banking industry will take from a digital perspective in the future.
The Fintech & Payments world is turning out to be a big growth sector in 2020 and from January there was a notable interest from clients to hire at Director level or above in order to set themselves up for ongoing digitalisation. A key focus at the senior end of the market has been on the delivery of digital projects across numerous channels, and KPIs are typically geared around commercial outcomes such as customer engagement, loyalty and retention.
There has been a growing demand for numerous skillsets including: digital product and roadmap, CX design and customer centricity, GTM and Speed to Market as well as commercial acumen around customer lifetime value (CLTV).
In the cards and payments sector, we are seeing the rise of ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ options due to the wider millennial consumer group wanting to take ownership of their finances and move away from credit options. Due to the success of ClearPay (AfterPay) as a leading competitor worldwide, multiple payment providers and gateway are launching and scaling out their platform/solutions in order to take market share away from the major card networks such as Visa, Mastercard and AMEX.
Fintech integration, external acquisitions and corporate partnerships are expected to continue to grow in 2020 in the cards and payments sector. Innovation within the wider payments industry is expected to continue being a growth vertical as customers move away from cash and towards more streamless payment methods.
The second quarter is no doubt going to be a surreal time as we revert to ‘war time’ methodologies, with the power of technology allowing businesses to continue working remotely. It remains to be seen if there will be continued hiring, or if there will be a late boom, towards the end of the year, when hopefully we are through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Luckily, it is an opportunity for companies to embrace working from home and increased flexibility and thanks to the continued use of digital technologies, we are able to accommodate hiring needs and continue recruitment processes during tough times.
Traditionally, we see more permanent vacancies in the second quarter of the year, following bonus payouts. This might be stunted by the COVID-19 developments, however there will still be an appetite to hire, albeit possibly later in the year.
With firms enabling their employees to work from home, we suspect that businesses that previously offered very limited or no flexible working may be more open to allowing this in the future as they grow in confidence that their workforce is as productive in the office as it is when working remotely.