IT, Digital & Change

When working with contract and permanent staff, in change management you can end up interrogating a client’s meaning of the word “change” in some detail.

The role expectations of similar titles can vary widely. The title “change manager” can mean very different things from one client to the next in terms of experience, skillset and salary expectations.  

These roles have undergone a revolution over the last five years, with even more to come.  

It started in 2008, when companies across financial services came under real pressure to reduce permanent headcount. Across the spectrum, the role of the contractor quickly became very popular. A short-term role which could be flexible in remit or focused on a specific project was a gift from the heavens for managers pressed to deliver projects under tight timescales.  

Changing Landscapes

Over the last five years, project and change management contract roles have been as lucrative as they have been ubiquitous. But those days are now coming to an end.  

In late 2013, we started to see a real shift in the market, with clients showing considerably more caution in appointments, looking for the “perfect” candidate. This might appear a little odd, but heavy workloads are often tolerated in the change management sector and this frugality was a great indicator of a strategic shift, from limitless contract posts to a stronger emphasis on quality permanent and niche consultancy roles.  

Within the FS market, we experience demand for business analysts who are real subject matter specialists who can make an immediate impact for a very lucrative day-rate. Particularly in asset management, we saw a thirst for analysts who specialise in “big data”, predominantly proven experience within enterprise data management. So much so that specialists were being tempted to leave London for Edinburgh, attracted by exceptional rates of pay.  

What became crystal clear was that, particularly in Scotland, companies had been hiring contractors who simply didn’t have the depth or breadth of experience that was now needed in a growing economy.  

The central role of the recruitment consultant, particularly when you want to add real value to process, is interrogating the specific requirements for their change programme. What needs to be delivered in that project, and whether the role specification matches the actual need.  


We must realign the expectations of both clients and candidates, particularly those with legacy “titles”, borne in a different era, differentiating between analysts, project managers, programme managers and portfolio managers. We need to ensure that candidates have the skillset to fulfil the role in variable, more demanding, environments.  

The financial services market has pushed back, no longer wanting to offer contracts for generalist roles which can fill the gaps when permanent headcount was constantly being cut. It is now about niche expertise, talent with a proven track record in delivery and, in some notable areas, hiring the most focused and determined character who will meet with, prioritise, and deal with the huge demands and conflicts placed upon them.  

In 2014, the market began to show a real energy, with vacancy flows becoming strong across many areas, but particularly in banking, asset management and third party administration. What remains consistent is the significance of both regulatory change and the implementation of new systems and practices. These will always be key catalysts for recruitment.  

Going into 2015, a real focus on the “end customer” can be seen, client engagement and retention being vital in a strengthening market. Our clients want the best talent, but are balancing a blend of niche consultants and an increase in their permanent workforce.  

So, to conclude, for those in the contracting world, a change has come, and flexibility to change is key.  

Laura Thorburn is Associate Director of IT, Digital & Change Management

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