As exclusive partners to Global Trade Review, we are asked to write a recruitment overview for their annual directories. Recent pieces have tended to focus on change, uncertainty and risk, mostly driven by technological advances, Covid, deteriorating trade relationships and Brexit. The themes were inevitably the same this year as we wrote our contribution for the 2022 edition. Please read our slightly adapted version below.
Dynamic Trading Environment
In trading circles, opportunities arise when aspects of a market become less predictable, so companies try to take advantage while mitigating the risks. It was the creation of trade routes between the old and new worlds in the 1600s that presented the new risk categories which led to the development of Marine Insurance and modern investment markets. 400 years later, the risks have evolved but March 2021 gave us a classic maritime incident when the container ship Ever Given became wedged in the Suez Canal. The far-reaching consequences of this one event highlighted the critical role of global trade and the sophisticated range of financial services that are integral to its smooth operation.
In 2021, the US has adopted a more open outlook since the inauguration of Joe Biden, however, the Northern Irish situation, and its implications for the Good Friday Agreement that is so close to the president’s heart, mean an Anglo-American trade deal is probably not on the near horizon. The UK is looking further afield having submitted its application to join the CPTPP free trade area of Pacific Rim nations. Meanwhile, the world’s richest free trade area to date, the RCEP, has come into effect including China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia with India a possible future signatory if concerns about China can be allayed.
Exclusive GTR Partnership
Strong relationships are one way to defend against risk and in 2021 Healy Hunt was delighted to enter an exclusive partnership with Global Trade Review, building on our long alliance to establish a dedicated search consultancy for companies in the global trade, commodity and export finance markets. It is a unique opportunity to harness our combined intelligence and networks.
GTR’s virtual events this year have been a fine example of how forward-thinking organisations have adapted their operations. These forums have taken place at a challenging time for UK trade which is facing the combined impact of Covid and Brexit on supply chains and business continuity, while plans for a “Global Britain” slowly emerge. Key topics have included the prospects for supply chain finance in light of recent controversies, the drive for digitisation, the importance of being globally competitive, the challenges of ESG, and the latest support offerings available from UK Export Finance. The prospect of live events in Dubai and London this autumn is exciting. We look forward to seeing prospective clients and candidates face to face again and gaining further industry insight.
Recruitment Trends in Trade Finance and Transaction Banking
Digital transformation of trade and trade finance was progressing incrementally but has seen hockey stick growth over the last 18 months as the implementation of digital solutions became a necessity. The commitment made by G7 digital and technology ministers in late April to adopt a framework to facilitate the use of electronic transferable records for international trade transactions accelerated this process. The strategic and economic importance of this transformational step forward for global trade was widely welcomed by industry figures, although the pace of adoption will be inconsistent on a global level.
Businesses know they need to act decisively to be digitally prepared for change and avoid being left behind. Digital processes and remote working are efficient and flexible but come with an increased risk of fraud, money laundering and cyber-attacks. There is growing concern about the exploitation of trade and the challenges that banks face in identifying illegal activity behind seemingly legitimate transactions. New tech solutions can help the trade finance industry tackle these issues and open up trade even more at a digital level.
As we forecast last year, the move towards digital transformation has created a distinct increase in the recruitment needs of fintech start-ups, some of which are now scaling up rapidly. We help companies to build the boards and leadership teams that help them to obtain banking licences and to facilitate the financing and operational demands of the growth phase.
It is not just the FinTechs that are recruiting, established institutions recognise the need to keep pace with challengers that not only digitise systems but completely reinvent them. Financial Services is among the most active recruitment sectors in the UK right now. As well as the elevated demand for risk professionals that we reported last year, there is an increase in the number of roles in tech development, digital payments, IT support and IT security roles. There is also a new generation of sales and origination roles focused on digital trade products. Onboarding has mostly been performed remotely.
As well-vaccinated, western hemisphere nations anticipate a more permanent easing of restrictions despite the continued spread of the delta variant, risk and technology recruitment trends have accelerated as we forecast in previous years. Staff at all levels of trade finance and wider financial services will need a greater level of digital literacy. While the profile and role of Global Britain remains unclear and the challenges presented by Brexit remain unresolved, we expect to see this industry rising up to create solutions. A dynamic recruitment market will support this activity and while operational changes may have some degree of permanence, we look forward to Search Consultancy returning to a more face to face model.