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Gresham Hunt Guest Blog: Before, During, After… Talent Acquisition & COVID-19

It’s safe to say the “B-word” is no longer the fashionable word across Banking, Financial Services & FinTech. I’m sure everyone is as sick of hearing the “C-word” as much as we are here at Gresham Hunt? I am of course, talking about Brexit and Coronavirus! Maybe add to the list “lockdown, social distancing, unprecedented”, and we have a new list of “curse words” that should never be used again, once we overcome this great pandemic.

With all jokes aside, there are many reasons to be positive, as in most cases the virus seems to have brought us closer together, which is ironic given we are being asked to distance ourselves. It has also encouraged us to embrace the technology on offer, for example, how many of us had genuinely heard of “Zoom” before lockdown? From a Banking perspective, this has been a perfect showcase for FinTech’s to show their seamless, “human-less” ways to Bank, and for those Banks that have embraced change and technology to thrive.

Before we discuss the impact Coronavirus has had on the hiring market, it’s worth taking a look at how the GRC and Technology hiring market looked across Europe towards the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020.

2019 moving into 2020 (we will call this period “Pre-COVID”)

Just before Coronavirus started to take hold, recruitment across Europe was really starting to gather pace. This is normally the time of year that hiring starts to peak, so January and February are a good gauge of where the market is heading. 2019 was a year of slow job growth, but as we all know, Brexit uncertainty was having a lasting effect on roles not just in the UK, but across wider Europe, as businesses were trying to position themselves for the likely impacts. Whilst there was still a degree of uncertainty around Brexit, I think most had a better picture of how their businesses and legal entities should look, and therefore began hiring moving into 2020. Some key areas of growth across Europe were Fraud, Credit Risk & IT Consulting, with sprinkling of Web Development.

During COVID

Where do I start? Many parts of the market shut down completely, however, some key areas aligned with managing COVID. For example, “cloud” has maintained recruitment activity throughout, as the need for stronger, better and more secure cloud options has been exposed. With the majority of the workforce shifting to working from home over the last two months, the cyber security risks for businesses, both small and large, have increased exponentially. It is an enormous challenge for businesses to replicate the level of IT Security and Infrastructure they would have access to in the office with employees now working remotely. As a result, businesses have had to strengthen their remote access management policies, establish IP address whitelisting, implement multi-factor authentication for VPN access and increase inspections of remote network connections which has improved the labour market for those with skills in these areas. Many FinTechs are benefiting from cross-functional collaboration during this crisis – cyber, fraud, risk, financial controls, allowing them to broaden their view of threats, improve detection and monitoring and accelerate responses throughout COVID.

As a result, businesses have had to strengthen their remote access management policies, establish IP address whitelisting, implement multi-factor authentication for secure VPN access, and increase inspections of remote network connections which has improved the labour market for those with skills in these areas.

As we all know, the governments across Europe are keen to ensure credit is available, and with the only viable option being online or phone applications….cue the scam text and email alerts. Yes, recruitment across Financial Crime and Fraud Analytics has continued during COVID, because sadly, we are in an era of opportunity for those that can target the “newbies” to all this online stuff. Since we are talking about lending money, it goes without saying that Credit Risk, Quantitative and Data driven roles have also survived the “COVID-cull”.

Sadly, Europe’s Financial Services empire seems to have taken a holiday in recruitment across areas such as Audit, Regulatory Compliance and Finance & Accounting, until recent weeks, where the shutters are slowly being opened on some shops!


Everyone seems to be an economist, politician or doctor these days, and it’s hard to say what the “new normal” will look like. But one thing is abundantly clear, we will all remember how our employers treated us during this time of need. There have been some positive examples of how to deal with the pandemic, HSBC cancelled 35,000 redundancies saying it “does not want to leave staff unable to find work elsewhere” during the outbreak. Our CRM provider, Bullhorn, sent out an email to its network (all recruiters!), asking them to help their employees that they had let go due to the crisis. During any interview process moving forward, please expect the following question “How did you react and adapt during the COVID pandemic?”.  The ones that are able to talk about how they did everything they could to guarantee the safety of jobs and employee welfare, will be the ones that are able to attract the best talent moving forwards. It’s easy to speculate around key growth markets as we move into the new normal, but I think it’s safe to say those that embrace technology, employee welfare and innovation will be the ones that prosper…

I’d like to leave you by asking you all to reflect on your experiences during COVID, and think about what changes you will make to be better in the future. Feel free to get in touch to talk about, well, anything really. I am happy to offer insights into the Financial Services recruitment market, but also have an opinion on topics including (but not limited to): Brexit, Football (especially Manchester United) and Carol Baskin.

Author: Mark McLoughlin

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