A NOTE of cautious optimism seems to be gaining pace within the financial services sector, as almost three quarters of businesses anticipate job creation this year.
This is one of the primary findings revealed in a new survey from the Association of Compliance Officers of Ireland (ACOI).
The survey of 250 organisations – answered by ACOI members with responsibility for compliance in financial organisations throughout the country, sought to gain an insight into the outlook for the sector as it moves further into 2021. It revealed that as much as 74% of businesses believe the sector will see notable recruitment - up from 64% when the same survey was undertaken by the ACOI in September 2020. 70% say they are not expecting to see cuts to pay and/or benefits in their firms this year – a marked improvement on the 51% who felt the same in September of last year.
Michael Kavanagh, CEO of ACOI, commented of the findings: “Amongst the slew of fairly bleak news at the moment, these results shine some positive light on the prospects for Ireland’s financial services sector. We were greatly encouraged to find that positive sentiment towards recruitment has improved again since September, when we last put this question to our members, with 10% more respondents believing that the sector would recruit this year up from 64% to 74%.
"While there is certainly trepidation and uncertainty out there, the survey does portray a sense of cautious optimism that hiring of staff can get up and running again, perhaps now that some of the deepest uncertainties triggered by the pandemic, and indeed Brexit, have begun to ease.”
The ACOI survey also questioned respondents on whether or not they believe redundancies will remain on the table for the sector into 2021.
Mr Kavanagh added: “While the situation may change as matters evolve, there’s a growing optimism that redundancies may not be necessary in the months ahead. 54% of respondents to our survey said they do not believe firms in their sector will have to make redundancies in 2021 – this is up from 35% in September last year.
"This indicates an encouraging shift towards more confidence from employers. We didn’t have a vaccine last year - this year we do, and with that, perhaps, comes a little more room for businesses to manoeuvre their operational and developmental capacity this year.” In September 2020, 26% of respondents to the same ACOI survey agreed they could be facing pay cuts in the coming months, while 23% had already experienced such cuts.
"Approximately 50% of businesses, at that time, had not experienced pay cuts or cuts to benefits and were not expecting them in the near future. However, 6 months on and 70% of respondents say that they do not expect pay cuts and/or cuts in other benefits to be implemented in their business in 2021.
“Where much of the coming months might be focused on safety issues, contingency and planning, and perhaps looking at how to bring workers back to offices, the second half of 2021, will hopefully see a resurgence in economic activity with businesses once again able to focus more on growth, and driving their businesses forward.
"As we progress through the year, we will see more and more of what the ‘new normal’ will look like for businesses. While this transition is inextricably linked to progress in fighting, and recovering from, the pandemic, and certainly represents challenges and change, it is not to say that the year will be without opportunities for growth.
"They will exist, they might just look very different, and the real challenge for businesses is in how they pivot with and manage that transition in their preparations for what comes next.”