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Inside View: Austin Andrew Financial Recruitment

Matt Barrett, a recruiter at London headhunter Austin Andrew, tells us which areas of the industry are still hiring

Austin Andrew Ltd is a specialist London Financial recruitment agency, concentrating on the placement of Investment Bankers & Principal Investors across all sectors.

This week, we’ve spoken to Matt Barrett, who works on the Investment Banking & Principal Investment Desk, and shares his insights into his specialist sector: tech, media and telecommunications. Matt tells us where companies are recruiting, and how to get your foot in the door.

Tell us a bit about your role at Austin Andrew

As a member of the Investment Banking & Principal Investment team I cover a number of buy and sell side roles. My specialism is within the TMT market: Technology, Media and Telecommunications. TMT in 2012 has been one of the more buoyant sectors, with an influx of venture capital businesses looking to find the next Facebook or Google.

There are also large-cap tech businesses such as Microsoft looking to acquire new and innovative businesses with a growing foothold in their specific field in order to stay competitive with an evolving and fast paced market.

I work closely with clients to find individuals specific to their requirements. This means I’m not ‘pigeon holed’ or restricted to working one specific level of seniority – I work with clients at all levels, from graduates to senior professionals.

Do you place MBAs? What kind of roles are they suitable for?

Absolutely. We work closely with a number of business schools across EMEA and the US, we have a particularly close relationship in Europe with IE Business School. Every year we receive at least one visit from a group of MBA students looking at opportunities we may be able to offer.

Post MBA candidates tend to be of significant interest to large investment banks who run summer associate positions, and to private equity houses looking for candidates who have furthered their knowledge within the investment space.

My advice to all MBAs is to pick up the phone and be proactive with any job search: good post-MBA candidates with relevant experience are highly desirable.

What's the most exciting thing about being involved in recruitment?

For me, it’s the fact that I get to meet new people all day, every day. A lot of people who go into the financial sector spend their time analysing data on a computer screen, but I get a great deal of face to face contact.

I’m also interested in the unpredictability of people – you can’t analyse a person in quite the same way as an investment!

How buoyant is employment in financial services at the moment?

With topics of conversation in the City concentrating on the problems facing the Eurozone and speculating as to an impending breakup, our outlook is not pessimistic, but realistic.

Whilst global investment banks continue to restructure and consolidate, we are seeing new and exciting opportunities cropping up in the market through a sharp rise in independent, specialist corporate finance businesses.

We have observed that, to some degree, large investment banks are less able to offer competitive remuneration to their senior personnel, which has presented an opportunity for bankers to exercise their entrepreneurial ability and set up independent advisory houses which are usually sector specific.

In which markets are companies hiring?

There’s considerable movement across Natural Resources, and TMT remains a strong growth area. In the last quarter TMT was the best performing sector in Europe. Geographically, you could argue that emerging markets are less focused on BRIC countries, shifting instead to places like Vietnam and a number of East African countries.

The emergence of the Chinese middle class is bringing with it a great deal of new opportunities, and commodities which might traditionally be called ‘luxury’ are trading well there – just look at the recent sales of Scotch to the Asian market!

How can applicants compete with the best candidates?

You can distinguish yourself by demonstrating structured career progression, and showing your enthusiasm through work experience, internships, or having joined a relevant society at university.

It’s vital that applicants gear their C.V. specifically to each role they apply for. It’s no good just writing down everything you’ve ever done – you need to include what you did, why you did it, and why it might be useful. You should avoid generic ‘finance’ or ‘investment banking’ C.V.s.

Once you get through the door, you should show a personal interest in the role, explaining exactly why you want it, demonstrating your enthusiasm for the role and its subject. Knowing your market and bringing your own ideas to the table will set you apart.

Any advice for current MBAs looking for a job after graduation?

As far as work experience is concerned, utilise contacts and networks to secure yourself a month, a week, or even a day sat in the office. You may make valuable contacts, and the experience will boost your CV.

As far as possible, make the experience relevant. Again, avoid the generic ‘finance’ application by finding some work experience in the sector you’re interested in, or a finance house which is similar to that which you are applying to.

Getting experience isn’t only about contacts. If you’re willing to ring up lots of people, send lots of emails, and be proactive, you will often be rewarded. What’s more, you’ve demonstrated some tenacity and intuition.

It’s also worthwhile for graduates to approach recruiters. We have a much wider access to roles you might never hear about otherwise. Recruiters obviously have a great deal of experience when it comes to making the right recommendations, and we have applicants’ best interests in mind – it’s nothing like the experience of applying for a job through the website of a big bank.

Recruiters allow you to keep abreast of what’s happening in the markets and will, hopefully, give you sound and honest advice, making sure that whilst your expectations are realistic, your ambitions are fulfilled.

What is the biggest challenge facing the financial services industry?

This is billion dollar question – there’s money to be made in answering it perfectly! My view is that there’s some concern about what would happen if traditional growth areas flatten out, as they’re showing signs of slowing.

Some are speculating that places such as America, China and India, which have been the biggest area of financial growth over a sustained period of time, aren’t necessarily as rewarding as they have been in the past.

This means that, for graduates, there are opportunities in new areas of financial growth. Career-wise, it can be worthwhile to look for an emerging market or growth sector. Technology is a really interesting place to be, and there’s certainly growth there.

I should also mention that this question comes up in job interviews all the time! Interviewers will be keen to know what applicants would do if they had money to invest, or if they were the director of the company. It’s important that candidates can answer these questions confidently.

If you’d like to contact Matt Barrett about getting a job in Investment Banking & Principal Investment, email him at m.barrett@austinandrew.co.uk, or speak to him at his London office on 0207 153 1675.

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