The governance profession enjoyed a challenging, yet stellar 2022. Many escaped for a much-needed winter holiday and for those that stayed at home it was an opportunity to ‘decompress’ and spend quality time with family and friends.
Despite the strong threat of recession, the return to work in the New Year seemed more hopeful and optimistic than we were expecting based on conversations we’ve had with company secretaries at all levels. But this was slightly at odds with the actual recruitment activity recorded for January and February. We could see from the data that recruitment in the governance sector had begun to flatten in November 2022 after a 2-year bull run that began in October 2020. December and January were notably slower months in terms of new instructions at all levels with a 33% drop compared to the same period a year earlier. This was not unexpected as January 2022 was a solid month in terms of IPO related mandates which have not recovered post Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 80% of our recruitment mandates were for roles at CoSec Assistant, Assistant CoSec and Senior Assistant CoSec levels with salaries averaging £42k, £60k and £85k respectively.
Trainee levels are still thin on the ground. To help teams looking to ‘grow their own’ we will shortly be launching an online preview of the very best graduate talent from our Governance Insight Days. These are typically law graduates that have been inspired to start a career in governance. Deputy CoSec and Group level roles are down, however this is not that unusual given that many will be waiting for bonuses to be paid before proactively entering the job market.
February has seen an increase in the number of instructions at the junior to mid-level and across sectors and company type. Inevitably it’s the regulated businesses that are leading the charge, more a function of natural attrition than increasing team sizes though. Regulation and legislation is going one way, but even the biggest teams are resisting taking on additional headcount.
The governance market whilst resilient is not immune to sector fatigue and the impact of deepening domestic and global economic issues. Many of the larger corporates have adopted a ‘wait & see’ approach to M&A and implemented a soft ‘freeze’ on recruitment until market conditions improve. The IPO market which creates so much opportunity for governance professionals, has been treading water for the past 12 months. This predictably suppresses demand for recruitment especially at the senior level, and whilst we are not generally seeing recruitment embargoes, governance teams are under increasing pressure to utilise existing headcount more effectively.
Bucking the general market trend, we have assisted with several high-profile PLC team builds as newly appointed Group Company Secretaries seek to deliver their vision for the team and pro-actively attract top talent from elsewhere.
Group Company Secretaries are telling us that they expect an economic slowdown this year and reduced demand for recruitment unless of course someone leaves their team. With fewer jobs coming to market, it will it will be interesting to see the knock on effect on salary expectations as competition between candidates intensifies. For many companies, this will be a welcome relief as salaries have risen consistently in recent years making recruitment and more importantly, retention, a very difficult balancing act.
Activity in late Feb has definitely improved but it is too early to tell whether this is a trend or an anomaly. We will of course report back in Q2 with an update.