Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

Recruiter Robert Walters said growing staff shortages had sparked a fierce battle for talent across the UK, leading to wage inflation for workers in sectors such as technology, legal and financial services.

The FTSE-listed recruitment company said profits would be above expectations for its full fiscal year as companies rushed to find suitable candidates.

Group net fee income rose about a third in the last quarter of 2021, he said on Tuesday, with record trading in December despite the rise of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

CEO Robert Walters said there were “candidate shortages across all locations and disciplines, a fierce competition for talent and wage inflation that together create great opportunities across the recruitment market”.

Many UK companies are planning to expand this year in the hope that the worst of the pandemic will end, while the M&A boom in many countries has caused huge demand for bankers, lawyers and other professional service personnel.

Alan Bannatyne, the group’s financial director, said fee income at his London-based legal services team rose 89 per cent quarter-on-quarter, showing the level of demand for such professional services in the UK.

Bannatyne said candidates were typically able to secure wage increases of 15 to 20 percent when they shift jobs. He added that there was more of a ‘big reshuffle’ than a ‘big resignation’ trend, as companies that did well in the pandemic were trying to grow operations.

Robert Walters added more than 250 jobs to his own operations during the period.

Permanent recruitment was the strongest source of growth, which according to Robert Walters reflects confidence among organizations to appoint for the longer term.

The group, which will announce its full annual results next month, said profits would be above previous expectations. That raised consensus forecasts to around £ 48m for pre-tax profit, up from £ 14m last year.

More than four-fifths of the net fee income was generated by the company’s international businesses. Asia-Pacific’s net fee income rose to £ 44.8m, from £ 30.2m in 2020, despite restrictions in a number of markets. Bannatyne said Japan has the largest shortage of workers, with only one job seeker for every seven roles.

European net fee income increased by 28 per cent to £ 27 million. Robert Walters reported net cash of £ 126 million on 31 December 2021, down from £ 154.8 million in the same month last year.

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