Market Overview & Hiring Trends in Technology 2021

01/10/2021By Cyr Cornberg
With today’s rapid technological advances, there is an ever-growing demand in the hiring market of the Technology sector. Some of our consultants have noted some of their observations of the market below.

Energy and Utilities

With the development of today’s energy market, companies in the Energy and Utilities industry must be prepared to reinvent themselves. New regulations, new entrants, aging assets, climate change and environmental issues are heaping more questions about the best ways for power and gas companies to navigate the existing and emerging markets and how they transition and integrate conventional and renewable power, are complex issues for companies in this space.

At the same time, there are more pressing issues around record high prices in wholesale energy, gas supply shortages and decarbonisation. This is transforming how Energy and Utilities serve customers, identify market opportunities, and plan for long-term growth. To thrive in this environment, energy and utilities must review and, in many cases, transform their business models to focus on how they hedge against price spikes, move to more renewable energy, and become more environmentally responsible.

These factors all affect the way energy and utility companies are currently and will recruit in the future. A focus for most companies is around full-scale business and digital transformation. Like most sectors energy and utilities are looking to enable the workforce to work remotely, whether through digital tools for safety purposes, cloud-based solutions to enable remote working, IOT, drones to identify faulty equipment, machine learning around consumer behaviour and cyber security. All these factors will require new types of specialist recruits for organisations.

Cards and Payments

The Cards and Payments arena is still very active and no doubt assisted the economy during the Covid-19 pandemic. Online purchasing was at an all-time high (you could not get to the shop/retail outlets) and demand remained constant with only a small drop off since the rules were relaxed in the UK. Cash payments slowed and contactless by its nature has expanded significantly. The volume of mergers and acquisitions has generally remained consistent with about 50,000 global deals per year between 2015 and 2019, but COVID-19 forced a significant downturn in 2020. According to a report by Accenture on the pandemic’s impact on the M&A market, the count of deals and divestitures decreased by 12% and 3% respectively, and deal values have diminished by an alarming 47%. This said however, the M&A market is still buoyant. Mastercard for example have made significant acquisitions in the past 6 months. They continue to strengthen their digital asset capabilities, buying cryptocurrency intelligence CipherTrace and have opened a ‘Sustainability Innovation Lab’ in Stockholm, which will act as a research and development space for the creation of climate conscious products. Visa acquired Plaid. Deutsche Bank has acquired Berlin-based payment service provider Better Payment to expand its market share in the fast-growing market for online payment processing and acceptance and PayPal has struck a deal to buy Japanese buy now, pay later firm Paidy for around $2.7 billion. The deal strengthens PayPal’s position in the third largest e-commerce market in the world and also boosts its credentials in the fast-growing BNPL sector.

While M&A activity is constant, there are a plethora of fintech’s entering and challenging the mainstream payments schemes. Innovation and digital presence are the key drivers moving forward. Will digital/crypto currencies be the next gamechanger for payments? 2022 will be an interesting year as the world is released from Covid-19.

Recruitment wise, it’s a bit like the curate’s egg…..good in parts!! While in general the payments market has remained steady throughout the last 18 months, online retail/purchasing and contactless, has shown the available market for resource has been very tight. Good skills are hard to find as competition hots up for recruitment and retention. IR35 has not helped either with many organisations placing most assignments inside. This remains a challenge.

Skill wise, Java, is definitely a key player in this market as digitalisation is a major influencer. Product managers are in high demand as is portfolio management. Our prediction is that for the next 12 months, demand for talent will remain strong and prices/day rates will be under severe pressure to attract the best talent. And finally, don’t forget remote working. This is now a key “have to have”, so if you are in the market for resource be prepared to offer this. If you don’t,  you will severely limit your choices.

Retail and Hospitality

The Hospitality industries, and to a degree the Retail sectors, are benefiting from consumer spending which has rebounded with exceptional vigour as the economy has re-opened, driven by consumers increase in savings over the pandemic. Commercial Hospitality has seen the biggest turnaround in fortunes with late night venues, pubs and restaurants re-opening and the return of social life, whilst hotels have seen a boost to business at weekends, though to caveat this has been offset by much lower levels of weekday business travel as businesses continue to shun in person meetings. Retailers have continued to benefit from increased footfall, boosting bumper online trading figures, and the sector has seen a seismic shift from bricks and mortar to online in a short time. However, supply side issues due to Brexit and Covid-19 related labour shortages are creating risks to stock availability and fulfilment in the build-up to Christmas.

With the prospects for many consumer businesses looking much improved, spending has been unlocked to deliver major programmes of work that have been on hold over the course of the pandemic. However, there are substantial challenges presently in resourcing technology and change candidates for these businesses.

On the contract side the IR35 changes earlier this year have led to a lack of suitable technology / industry specialist contractors in the market, with confusion over market rates prevalent and a degree of uncertainty around whether candidates should shoulder the extra tax burden brought about by IR35 or whether clients should pick up some of the cost of inside IR35 engagements by increasing day rates. Some contractors have dropped out of the market altogether as the financial rewards of contracting have diminished.

With permanent roles there is the perennial challenge of ensuring appealing and appropriately benchmarked salaries and packages to attract candidates, particularly for clients within striking distance of London competing for talent in that market. Levels of candidates active in the market are at their lowest for years, and candidates are increasingly choosy when moving. Many organisations are only just beginning to understand that the recruitment market they are competing in for talent today is very different to that of 18 months ago. Significant work pattern flexibility and hybrid remote / office based work is now the base minimum expected by candidates, and working around individual needs / life circumstances is essential to attracting talent. Gone are the days when a top down, set pattern of day of 3 / 4 days a week in the office could be considered flexible enough to attract the best technology and change talent; today many candidates are expecting to be in no more than 1 – 2 days a week in the office, being present during key stakeholder / internal customer meetings, with the remainder remote.

The role of specialist, knowledgeable recruitment partners has never been more essential to tapping into passive candidate networks and articulating opportunities to candidates than in the present market. The lead time taken to find candidates has lengthened and vacancies are going unfilled for months in some cases. With talent teams over-stretched and often lacking the specialist knowledge needed to resource technology roles, hiring managers are relying heavily on committed partners like psd to deliver into their teams.

Travel & Aviation

I think it’s safe to say that the Travel and Aviation sector was one of the worst affected industries by the pandemic, however as we move full steam ahead towards the end of 2021 things are certainly looking brighter.

The recruitment side of things however has still a number of concerns to address. As organisations streamlined their workforce, with cuts across all aspects of the sector, is there a confidence crisis now for candidates who don’t necessarily have faith in the organisations they were once part of, I think so. With new hybrid working arrangements and an ever-growing concern for the climate, I think it’s still a long road ahead for organisations who want to attract the best talent.

Technology has a huge part to play in how we live our lives now and in the future. Aviation organisations are addressing contactless travel and seamless passenger experiences, where they don’t necessarily have to interact with anything other than an app on their phone to get themselves through a traditionally frustrating airport experience. Sustainability is also a buzz word that’s leading the innovation, how do organisations cut emissions and drive a culture of responsibility whilst keeping in mind that financial losses have been made? For me I expect that Travel and Aviation organisations need to adapt with an open mind. Not only to allow new ideas and innovation to be present, but also to be diverse and inclusive.

Finding the right people for any business at the moment is certainly challenging, especially with candidates demanding more than just an old fashioned 9 to 5. But there’s also a really good level of opportunity coming through globally, to join organisations who are not only leading innovation within the sector but also keeping environmental and cultural values at the forefront as they drive their balance sheets back to black.

Real Estate

As one of the last sectors to jump on board with digitalisation , the Real Estate industry is certainly making up for it by following the most popular real estate technology trends,

PropTech (Property Technology) is one of the biggest buzzwords around the Real Estate sector. It uses information technology to help people research, sell, buy, or manage their property, which in turn will add value to their business through technology.

Some other interesting trends such as Real Estate management software makes it easier for property owners to manage their real estate and customers online. This has many benefits to landlords such as reduced admin work, online payments, real time access to information and securing sensitive data.

Virtual Reality, many real estate company’s have been using virtual reality tours for some time, however 2021 is the year where VR and AR will enter a mass property market. Agents can use VR technology to show both the exterior and interior of properties that aren’t built yet so that clients can get a clear look at what’s being offered.

Robotic process automation. Although Robotic Process Automation’s adoption has been slow within the Real Estate industry, I expect that it will play a role in overall digital transformation efforts as Real estate companies work to improve operational efficiency and reduce costs.

In order for companies to survive post Covid-19, hiring policies will depend on how rapidly different sectors scale-up and transition from traditional practices to digital, while focusing on ways to enhance team collaboration and productivity.

An old saying the early bird catches the worm stands true for hiring in the market at present, companies that have a structured recruitment process and move fast are getting the best talent and innovating quicker.

Asset Management

2020 was a challenging time for most businesses with roller-coaster financial markets. The Asset Management sector has come through this relatively well however and 2021 has seen a significant increase of investment in business transformation and technology within the sector. This in turn has driven high demand for both permanent staff and contingent resources across a number of different areas including those outlined below:

Operational Resilience – The pandemic has driven many organisations to look at and improve their operational resilience. This has led to the embedding of new processes and the move to remote working has also meant closer scrutiny of cybersecurity and data privacy. Our clients have been hiring for skills to help in all these areas.

Operations – The cost of operations and associated personnel across the middle and back office is still very high. This is driving further automation and creating demand for highly skilled tech resources in areas such as AI and RPA. In addition, there is further outsourcing to Third Party Administrators and the use of technology vendors providing SaaS solutions. All this creating demand for highly skilled business change and technology professionals to help augment.

Data – Data has been key area of focus across the industry for some time and continues to be so. Asset Managers are looking closely at their data strategies and continuing to invest in data scientists, data analysts and associated technologies.

Digital & Client Experience – To stand out firms are looking at their clients’ digital experience right across the end-to-end journey. This is driving demand for technologists with strong digital and customer experience expertise.

Regulation – The onslaught of new regulatory obligations has slowed a little over the past 18 months, but the asset management industry is still faced with a challenging regulatory environment. Business change professionals with regulatory change expertise and therefor still high in demand.

ESG – The focus on Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) continues to accelerate and we have seen high demand as a result of this in the Product Development and delivery space.

In general, the labour market within the Asset Management sector has gone from being a “buyers’ market” in 2020 to a far more candidates driven market in 2021. Most of our clients are now returning to some form of office-based working and although there are examples at opposite ends of the spectrum where this is concerned (a small number mandating 5 days a week in the office and others allowing some people to remain almost fully remote) the middle ground is mostly opting for 2-3 days per week. In a candidate driver market flexibility will be a key differentiator for companies looking to attract talent.


This article was written by some representatives of the Technology & Change Team as follows:

Cyr Cornberg, Geoff Eaton, Ray Murphy, Dan Szczerban, and Nick Fraser, Nigel McHale.

See our Technology & Change consultants here.