Talk about ups and downs! As we reported last quarter, businesses adopted a cautious approach in Q1 as inflation and interest rates continued their upward trend and the Ukraine/Russia war escalated. This had the effect of exerting a downward pressure on recruitment volumes across the governance and legal markets as employers and candidates adopted a wait and see approach to hiring. Instructions in Q2 2023 were down 45% compared to Q2 2022.
By early April, there was a notable positive shift in sentiment and despite the same socio-economic conditions persisting, recruitment activity in Q2 rebounded to pre-pandemic levels which many consider to be more ‘normalised’ market conditions. The post pandemic boom is over and recruitment leaders are in broad agreement that barring any major global shocks we have entered a phase of slower growth. Many recruitment companies have suffered this year with Robert Walters recently announcing H2 profits of just £100,000 for their entire UK business.
The governance market is resilient but not immune to market fluctuations and headcount within UK secretariats are under pressure. That said, governance requirements within organisations across all sectors continues to evolve along with an appetite at Board level to raise standards of governance with a particular focus on enhancing ESG frameworks. For those companies tackling debt issues, company secretaries will find themselves supporting group reorganisations, restructuring and refinancings. Q2 saw a 60% increase in Group level mandates compared to Q1 mainly from FTSE small cap and AIM listed companies which is further evidence of improving confidence in the market.
The professional services firms are strong beneficiaries during times of change with governance teams within the largest practices reporting strong revenues and no let-up in demand for their services. Recruitment levels within these firms remains robust, but identifying and securing talent at the junior to mid-levels remains a real challenge despite the incredible breadth of clients and workflow on offer.
The banks and insurance companies make up a disproportionate of instructions in Q2 but that is to be expected given their team sizes, complexity, regulatory requirements and global footprint. The data tells us they offer the highest base salaries and bonus potential. Attrition rates are fairly stable at 8-12% compared to H1 2022.
The not-for-profit sector has fared well this year and recruitment volumes have remained consistent throughout H1. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons why, however the data being gathered for our 2024 Market Guide (published in October) should give us some insight.
As we have reported many times over the years, governance teams tend not to be over-resourced which is why thankfully the profession does not suffer from a hire and fire mentality. 90% of leavers will get replaced either at the same level or similar. For smaller functions that recruit less frequently, there is often a surprise at how salaries have increased over the past 5 years leading to discussions of increased budget or readjusting the search at a more junior level.
There is still much work to be done to attract talent into the professional – the DMJ Governance Insight Days sponsored by Deloitte Legal goes some way to address this and this year we have a number of new clients that will hosting an event in H2.
To end on a positive, our 2023 Governance HOT 100 initiative sponsored by Computershare highlighted the incredible talent that exists within the professional. We brought everyone together for a celebration in May which was a superb night to remember. We look forward to the 2024 Governance HOT 100 which will open for nominations in January 2024.