Demand for senior and mid-level financial service executives jumped 18% in the first nine months of the year, according to the Association of Executive Search Consultants.
The figure is based on quarterly reports of executive searches booked by the group's 160 member firms around the world. The rise for all industries was only 14%, the group said.
Ken Rich, a partner with Ray & Berndston, an executive recruiting firm based in Fort Worth, said there are pent-up hiring needs for banking professionals. "The banking industry is finding it hard to keep up with the pace of demand for experienced executives," he said.
Headhunters said few industries have had to deal with as much change as banking in the last few years. Bank acquisitions of asset management and brokerage firms, in particular, have had a large impact on hiring needs at all financial services companies.
As banks develop mutual fund products, investment management, strategic planning, and subsidiaries with section 20 powers, employees with skills in these areas continue to be a great asset, the recruiters said.
Roderick C. Gow, vice chairman of executive recruiter Amrop International and head of its global financial services practice, said there has been a need for professionals who specialize in mutual fund management, sales, and distribution.
"At investment banks there has been strong demand in emerging markets, and people who are specialized in the health care, media, and technology sectors," Mr. Gow said.
He added that chief technology officers and chief information officers who can direct global banking businesses are also in great demand.
Mr. Gow and other top recruiters said consolidation in the financial services industry will continue to create demand for high-caliber executives.
"The consolidation trend is nothing new, but lately the acceleration of major deals has been very high," said Jay Gaines, founder and president of the New York-based search firm that bears his name. "The landscape is changing faster than the industry can catch up, and it is creating tremendous demand for top people and specialized division heads."
Given the environment, recruiting experts recommend that bank executives continue to practice year-round career management, possibly hiring career counselors just to test the waters.
"It's difficult for a company to keep the golden handcuffs secure on an executive," said Paul Ray Jr., chairman of the Association of Executive Search Consultants and chief executive officer of Ray & Berndston.
Last year about 75% of senior-level managers went to at least one interview, he said.
"They are staying ahead of the game instead of just sitting back waiting for offers to fall in their lap."