2021 The Year in Review

2021 has brought its own challenges for companies to retain and attract skilled talent. Due to the pandemic, employees have been very conscious on the stability and flexibility of their current or future employer. This brought a unique outlook to people as soon as they were starting to seek a new challenge. Guiding both clients and candidates through this process wasn’t always easy but a good example as to why, as a recruiter, you can never stop improving and adapt. Fortunately, the job market has seen a huge increase in demand across the board since the beginning of the year. Whilst the year got off to a slow start it didn’t take long for things to pick up especially towards the end of Q1.

As a firm, we witnessed one of the busiest years, as demand surged across almost every specialism within our coverage. While we mostly focus on financial services and technology, there were large hiring needs in various other sectors including life sciences/healthcare, enterprise technology and sales and marketing. This led to internal discussion about not if, but when DSJ will be expanding its coverage to other sectors. Exciting times as we look to take on 2022.

On the sell side, similar to other areas within financial services, there was mostly a large increase in demand for skilled labor across seniority. While the last few years saw a big push to hire junior candidates, we saw a more balanced trend this year. Many firms focused on diversity hires, given the large disparity of female talent within the financial services industry. In particular, there was a number of openings within fixed income trading, as well as sales and structuring. Clearly, there was more demand for Debt related roles this year, compared to Equities. Foreign products being sold to domestic investors was the main focus. There was also a massive increase in the needs for Operations staff. From Business Managers to Trade Support, we saw plenty of needs for Back Office staff.

On the Investment Banking Division (IBD) front, Mergers & Acquisition and coverage bankers have been in demand particularly focusing on Consumer and Technology sectors, and we have seen considerable movement for both incoming IBD Junior to mid-level candidates and some exiting and moving to Private Equity. Debt Capital Markets has been active with candidates at Associate/VP level in strong demand including Environmental Social Governance (ESG) related roles. 

We also saw an increase of more senior hires this year, in comparison to the last few years. At DSJ, our average placements were at the VP level, and also saw a number of Managing Director and Senior Director roles coming in and being filled. The time to hire also seemed faster this year, with approval time generally being less lengthy. Another outstanding factor we witnessed this year was foreign firms hiring more within the Front office, particularly compared to last year.

On the buy-side, this year saw a strong demand for Japan equity analysts and portfolio managers both for hedge funds and long only funds not just based in Tokyo but also outside of Japan. We have also seen a healthy demand for product specialists across all asset classes (equity, fixed income and alternatives) and strong movement within this area of the market. Towards the second half of the year, we witnessed an increasing trend for buy side operations candidates some with quite specific knowledge 

Last but not least, amongst all sectors, Technology has and continues to have huge growth. The area’s most notable to have seen an influx in hiring are Cybersecurity, IT Risk Management, Software Development, IT Project Management, Data Science, Application Support and Front-End Development. Clients will want their junior to mid-level tech talent to be able to grow beyond their typical role and take on more responsibilities as well as understand the business side. Senior professionals will have to be able to communicate effectively and rise to the challenge of leading their team remotely as this is still a reality for some, although gradually fading. The best way to cater to that is to show creativity in problem-solving, flexibility and a strong understanding of the sector to become an industry expert, besides having the right tech background.

Completing our 5th year anniversary this year, we started to notice a number of new clients contacting us for our services, both existing companies within Japan and also some looking to start up their business here. These included Tech Start-ups as well as Hedge Funds. We only managed to add one new member to our team, but with the current flow of business, we are looking to add two to three more consultants next year.

What’s in store for next year. We feel demand for fixed income sales and structuring and on the buy side, research and portfolio managers (both hedge fund and long only) will continue to remain strong and not only from the larger platforms but also boutiques and start-ups. With 2021 being a strong year globally for M&A we expect this to lead to further strong hiring for IBD roles (M&A plus coverage bankers) at Analyst to Director level.

Further we expect to see increasing demand for ESG related roles and a continued strong trend for operations, product specialists / mangers and client facing roles with alternatives positions gaining strength. The overall demand in Tech has also been high and we have no reason to believe that 2022 will be any different. We are sure that positions related to Back End Development, Data Science and Machine Learning will be in high demand as well as professionals with a background in Cloud Computing and Web Development. DSJ had its record year in Technology recruitment and is working hard to top that.

Our clients value our understanding of their business and ability to pair the right talent to their teams. We are rightfully optimistic for next year and can’t wait to overcome the new challenges ahead.