Banks eye loan specialists, marketers as pandemic boosts debt, digital demands

Banks eye loan specialists, marketers as pandemic boosts debt, digital demands

Loan workout specialists and digital marketers are in high demand at banks as the pandemic spurs lenders to prepare for bad loans and adjust to digital interactions with current and prospective customers, analysts said. 

“Workout specialists — it’s the No. 1 thing that banks are looking for right now,” said Paul Schaus, president, CEO and founder of consulting firm CCG Catalyst. “Four months ago, a workout specialist couldn’t find a job anywhere.”

As the pandemic enters its fifth month, high unemployment and a weakening economy are causing banks to prep their “war chest,” Schaus said. “They’re preparing for battle, and that’s poor earnings and bad loans.”

Profits at the nation’s largest banks plunged during the last quarter, as banks padded their loan loss reserves to prepare for a flood of troubled loans. 

Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank have set aside a combined $104 billion in provisions for bad loans. 

Shutdowns and social distancing are also causing banks to boost their digital methods of getting in front of new customers.

“Lending workout and distressed debt specialists are in demand right now, but we’re also seeing a lot in marketing — chief marketing officers, chief digital officers and positions underneath them,” said Jeanne Branthover, managing partner and global head of the financial services practice at the executive search firm DHR International. “What is very much hot right now is getting to the consumer. And the way to get to the consumer with everybody being at home is digitally.”

Branthover said firms are also actively looking for technology specialists with experience in machine learning and artificial intelligence to help boost the performance of their apps.

“That is where they feel that they can make their money and they want to target the right audiences,” she said. “They want to be in front of them showing the correct product. We’re seeing that all over financial services, banking, investment banking and asset management.”

Despite global economic uncertainty, banks have continued to hire. 

The 15 largest U.S. and European banks added 19,000 employees during the first six months of the year, Bloomberg reported, citing company filings.

Barclays saw the highest bump, adding 7,000 new staff members, while Wells Fargo was the leading U.S. bank, with 6,500 employees added during the period. 

Wells Fargo, however, reportedly plans to cut tens of thousands of employees this year as it looks to trim $10 billion from the bank’s annual expenses.

Branthover said her firm saw companies put hiring on hold at the beginning of the crisis, but activity has since resumed.

“As [the pandemic] continued, they realized they couldn’t wait because of the way that they were going to be behind the ball,” she said. “We’re seeing leadership changes, and we’re seeing hiring of additional staff to get ready for when they believe the fourth quarter and next year are going to be better.”

Meanwhile, large lenders such as Deutsche Bank and HSBC are continuing with planned cuts. 

Deutsche on Wednesday announced plans to accelerate thousands of job cuts at its retail unit’s German offices. The lender announced last year that it plans to cut 18,000 employees, a fifth of its global staff, as part of a restructuring. 

HSBC is slashing 35,000 jobs over three years. Meanwhile, British lender NatWest said it is cutting 500, and Dutch bank ABN Amro, which is not among the top 15, said Wednesday it was shedding about one-third of its investment bank — up to 800 employees — over the next four years.

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