Headhunters seek bankers in Germany despite crisis

FRANKFURT Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:35am EST

FRANKFURT Nov 12 (Reuters) - These are desperate times for bankers in New York and London as financial houses axe thousands of jobs, but in Germany the desperation is felt by head-hunters trying to fill an upsurge in openings.

The global credit crisis is expected to create a wave of redundancies in the financial sector, with experts predicting more than 200,000 jobs will be eliminated in New York and London alone.

But in Germany head-hunters and temporary staffing agencies are struggling to find candidates, particularly for classic banking jobs such as client advisory services, because of bankers' fears of changing jobs in the midst of the crisis.

German banks also plan to cut thousands of jobs but there have so far been few actual lay-offs.

"We've hardly felt the financial crisis," said Melanie Reitz, chief executive of the Bankpower temp agency.

Demand for new hires among Germany's public-sector savings banks, cooperative banks and commercial lenders is stronger now than it was a year ago as lenders bolster their risk and control activities and rediscover retail and business customers as stable sources of revenue, Reitz said.

Investment bankers, whose numbers soared in the years leading up to the outbreak of the crisis in 2007, are no longer in demand, she said.

Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) has said it aims to create 2,500 client advisory jobs and open 400 new branches by 2012.

Germany's biggest bank also said it would cut back office jobs by 1,100 as part of an efficiency drive, however.

Good people are always hard to find, Reitz said.

"Whoever is sitting warm and dry is not going to move voluntarily at first," said Reitz, whose agency targets highly qualified banking specialists.

The situation is similar for top managers.

"People have become less flexible in the last four to five months. Many are simply waiting it out and hoping that they hang on to their jobs," said Anne-Marie Castel from the Frankfurt personnel agency MZ Consulting.

"As long as no one knows how long the crisis is going to last, nothing will change," she said.

RIPPLE FROM THE STORM

Even German services trade union Verdi does not expect much more than a ripple in Germany from the redundancy wave washing through the financial sector in other markets.

"The banking system is on a much more solid base in Germany than it is in other countries," Verdi board member Uwe Foullong said, predicting job losses in investment banking would be made up for in other banking activities.

Verdi estimates that Germany's banks employ about 680,000 people.

The country's state-sector regional wholesale banks, or landesbanks, such as HSH Nordbank [HSH.UL], WestLB [WDLG.UL] and BayernLB [BAYLB.UL], have said they plan to cut 2,500 jobs.

Commerzbank (CBKG.DE) has said it would cut around 9,000 following its takeover of rival Dresdner Bank (ALVG.DE), with banking experts predicting most of the losses would come in back office and administrative areas rather than client-facing positions.

Munich-based HVB (CRDI.MI) said on Wednesday it would cut as many as 2,500 jobs by 2010. (Editing by Will Waterman)