IT contractor jobs recovery 'well underway'

No let up in demand for temporary IT skills from financial services has compelled clients outside the wage-rich sector to kick-start their own IT contractor hiring plans.

Pointing at April, May and June, two new measures of financial IT contractor jobs show growth, just as overall IT contractor hires shot up 11% over the same period.

The latter finding, from CWJobs, marks the second consecutive quarter of growth for the IT contractor jobs market this year, indicating "recovery is well underway."

Evidencing its claim, the job site said contractor hires grew by 10% between January and March, despite an initial lull, and by more than 11% between April and June.

Less positively, although it is posting more IT contracts than this time last year, the site's total IT hires are down by 170%, compared with the start of the credit crunch.

The finding is unlikely to faze contractors wanting software, financial or retail work, as each sector is seeing double digit percentage growth in its pool of IT contracts.

Also on annual basis, the media sector grew its IT contractor intake in June, by 9% the CW figures show, in line with the buoyancy seen in the social media space.

Although the site does not track pay, counter offers on rates are now a regular feature of the freelance computer jobs market, IT recruiters JM Group said last week.

Yet the bidding war is so far confined to investment banks, whose "confidence is returning" and whose "budgets are being approved for some riskier projects that were on hold."

Reflecting on contractor billings by the banks in June, the recruiter said rates have risen steadily since January, with some IT contractors realising increases of nearly 20%.

"Several new projects have been initiated in the banks and the competition for candidates is fierce," the group said, recalling one client who upped its initial pay offer by 65%.

Mainly centred on integration, the projects competing the most for contractors stem from mergers and acquisitions (M&As) of 2008-09, and are expected to run until at least the middle of next year.

However today's jostling for contractors is not down to regulations, as most IT compliance hires only won sign-off this month, JM Group said, and will continue until September.

ReThink Recruitment agreed, saying Basel III rules and the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive are both "forthcoming" items on the IT compliance agenda.

Still, even without that impetus, IT contractor rates at hedge funds and asset managers climbed 13% over the last six months, the firm said, partly due to systems upgrades.

"[These financers] are upgrading reporting systems to enable better monitoring and tracking of complex transactions," explained ReThink's financial IT boss Fhamid Malik.

"[They] are locked in an arms race to create the fastest and most reliable trading systems," [while larger] "transaction volumes are fuelling demand for IT skills."

Asked about IT skills in London and the South East, which together create the bulk of financial IT jobs, SQ Computer Personnel said there were some acute shortages on a contract basis.

The recruitment firm's founder, Bernie Potton, says Business Analysts are particularly sought-after, as are applications support contractors, though Java and .NET specialists top his agents' wishlists.

"The increase in spending from last year's dropped projects" is one reason contract IT skills are in greater demand overall, as well as "regulatory change, M&As and related integrations projects" in the financial services sector.

"Business stakeholders are also demanding delivery for internal projects," he added, "[which] has created relationship manager and delivery management roles."

According to JM Group, investment banks' IT work is focussing on equity derivatives, credit markets, toxic debt, hybrid projects and some securitised products, among other areas.

However some daily rates still being way off their pre-recessionary level is not the only obstacle to banks and financial institutions getting those IT contractors who they really want.

"Another fall out from the credit crunch has been the reputational affect of the various bank brands and the candidate loyalties to the premium brands," the group said.

"A lot of candidates now view all banks, irrespective of their position in the market, with a degree of scepticism. Before the crunch, a clients name alone would be a key part of the decision making process for the candidate, this is now a significantly lower factor in the[ir] final decision".

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