What financial services recruiters are saying about the U.S. election

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In the final days leading up to Election Day, polls have seesawed back and forth and ultimately tightened to the point that the presidential race is far too close to call. Hillary Clinton may have edged the latest polls after being cleared by the FBI of any wrongdoing with her emails, but it's really on a knife-edge.

Whichever candidate gets in, there are some likely consequences for financial services recruitment, so what do career consultants and financial services think about the U.S. election.

For Paul Webster, managing director and the head of Page Executive in North America, believes that whatever the conclusion, recruitment will likely pick up again. Both Clinton and Trump have been posturing about Wall Street, but he believes that both will make minor tweaks to existing regulations at most.

"Recruitment for large global banks across the board – Canadian, U.S., European, Japanese and Chinese banks – has been slower due to the U.S. election coming up, as there is huge uncertainty about the results relative to previous elections, he says. "Regardless of which one gets in, the election will result in improved activity in the banks – hiring across corporate banking, trade finance, structured finance and M&A will see a pickup once the election comes to an end."

But if there's some pent up recruitment demand because of the build up to this week's election, others believe that significant change could be on the way. Kim Ann Curtin, executive coach and the author of Transforming Wall Street, says Trump will be "traumatic for the country".

“It could be anarchy, because he’s an instigator,” she said. “Even if Hillary gets in, even if those who are supportive of her are not fully liking her – she’s not reaching people’s hearts and inspiring them about the future. If I look at the finance industry, it’s one of the [sectors] that politicians don’t really do justice to – they find the places where there’s the most political clout and make sweeping changes, not taking into account the repercussions.”

While both candidates have engaged in anti-Wall Street rhetoric at certain points throughout the campaign, Trump raised eyebrows among Republican loyalists working in financial services, particularly private equity professionals, with his criticism of the current tax regime for carried interest.

“The U.S. election could impact banking jobs depending on which party is elected – it will have both short- and long-term consequences,” said Jeanne Branthover, a partner at DHR International, a recruiting firm. “In the short term a Trump win could have a downside market move. No matter who is elected there will be movement in the markets, and this will affect bankers Wednesday morning.”

The rise of anti-establishment populism

Whether voters’ anger is directed in the right place or not, it’s possible that the rise in populism and anti-establishment sentiment exemplified in the result of the U.K.’s Brexit referendum will manifest itself in this U.S. election and beyond

“If I were a bank, I’d be very cautious, because people are angry and frustrated that their needs aren’t being met, so they look for a scapegoat,” Curtin said. “Politicians tap into that anger and say ‘I’m going to do this with Wall Street, this with banks,’ without thinking through the repercussions.

“People are going to demand change, so banks are going to have to do things differently – the game is changing,” she said. “Banks are trying to be safe and stay focused on profits and profits only. They're not hiring and are cutting critical internal programs, and that could be their downfall – they need to look beyond just their profits."

Webster is more optimistic.

“After this election, we’ll see reemphasizing positive attributes of banks, particularly to the extent that they help small businesses, and encouragement to lend money back to those sorts of small-to-mid-size companies,” he said. “On the back of that, there will be cross-selling opportunities for banks targeting the lower to middle market.”

“Banks are key employers in the U.S. market, despite the fact that net over the past five or six years the sector has reduced headcount, but we’ve reached critical mass by the amount of staff that have been laid off by banks,” he said. “In order to maintain and generally keep improving employment levels, both candidates will want banks to hire more staff again, which will help the unemployment rate and the economy.”

Photo credit: franckreporter/GettyImages

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