Salary Guide 2018 : Scottish Financial and Professional Services

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Core-Asset Consulting’s Salary Guide 2018 is a combination of market intelligence, salary data, and insights and analysis from our consultants. It is designed to assist clients in setting competitive remuneration levels in the year ahead, as well as helping candidates assess their career path and inform their next move.

The outlook for recruitment activity this year is difficult to predict. Although it now seems clear the UK will pursue a hard exit - and in doing so, leave the European single market - the devil will be in the detail. As a result, uncertainty will persist for some time to come.

Whether you are looking to strengthen your business or enhance your career, we hope you will find this guide of value.

1. Outlook

Betsy Williamson
Managing Director – Executive Search & Specialist
Contact Betsy

At the outset of 2017, many within the financial and professional services sectors in Scotland hoped it would be a year of greater clarity surrounding Brexit.

But as 2017 closed, few substantive points had been agreed. Yes, talks progressed throughout the year, but as to the precise nature of Britain’s departure from the UK, we were still largely in the dark.

What did become clear, however, was a growing acceptance that regardless of the shape of Brexit, business must continue. And if possible, continue successfully. To support this resolution, recruitment activity was steady if unspectacular.

Unimpeded by Brexit concerns, US companies were perhaps the most bullish hirers, particularly across temporary and contract roles.

Sector consolidation - especially within asset management and platform providers - dampened homegrown recruitment activity to some extent.

But growing regulatory focus ensured candidates with specialist skills and experience were in high demand.

Amidst gloomy predictions about the lack of growth in real wages, salaries across the financial and professional services sectors were broadly flat, mirroring most employment sectors within the UK.

Spikes in remuneration did occur, but tended to be localised to highly specialised and scarce niche skills, e.g. risk and compliance.


When outlining the outlook for recruitment activity in 2018, it is tempting to fixate on Brexit and its likely impact.

But other forces will most likely have a more fundamental effect on the financial and professional services sectors in Scotland.

Cost control

Controlling costs should, of course, be a key and ongoing focus of any business, regardless of the economic environment. But it is set to be particularly prominent in 2018.

Last year’s high-profile merger within the asset management industry, if not driven solely by costs, was certainly influenced by it.

Fees continued to be under pressure, as the flow of assets under management from active to passive funds showed no signs of abating.

Sector consolidation across wealth management, platforms and pensions was due more clearly to a need to streamline operations and maximise growth with minimum spend.

There is little doubt that whatever the sector, operating margins will continue to face pressure.

2018’s stringent focus on costs is partly down to the current economic environment, and partly a result of the pessimistic outlook held by many economists and business leaders.

Brexit, of course, has its part to play here. But restricted growth, rising interest rates and global uncertainty form much of the backdrop. 

As a result, employers are very cautious. This mood reflects the general zeitgeist of austerity, prudence, stability and hesitance.

Household incomes are being squeezed, corporate budgets are under pressure. This, after all, will be an era bookended by the global financial crisis and the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Corporates desire to reduce costs will almost inevitably have a direct impact on hiring activity and salaries - particularly permanent positions.

As part of this, technology will be harnessed to automate more and more back-office processes, shifting demand for talent from task execution to statistical and data analysis.

Regulatory requirements

The regulatory pressures on companies will increase in 2018. MiFID II, GDPR, FINREP, COREP, PRUVAL and PRIIPS are just a few of the acronyms now commonplace.

While this is good news for candidates with the requisite skills sets, it means organisations will have to invest more in the implementation and maintenance of new regulatory frameworks.

The associated costs and workflows will need to be carefully managed.

With MiFID II alone, it is estimated that the banks, brokers and clearing houses of Europe have spent over 2.5bn euros on systems and compliance.

These projects are not revenue generating in themselves, so the costs will have to be borne elsewhere in the business.

Diversity & equality

If anyone was in doubt as to whether gender diversity and equality would remain a live topic, January 2018 saw Iceland become the first country in the world to make it illegal to pay men more than women.

Companies with more than 25 employees will now be required to obtain certification of equal pay policies from the Iceland government. Those that fail will be fined.

In the UK, the introduction of gender pay gap reporting has shone a spotlight on all sectors of the economy. However, the UK government’s latest figures highlight that the most glaring disparities are in the financial services sector, alongside construction.

Creating true remunerative parity between men and women will come at a cost. A worthwhile cost, but a cost nonetheless.

Gender equality and gender diversity go hand-in-hand, and if women are to be better represented at a senior level across the financial and professional services sectors, further investment is required.

Flexible working, equal maternity and paternity, return to work programmes – more progressive policies need to be adopted by employers if working environments are to be fit for the 21st century.

If the right female talent is not available immediately at home, companies need to look overseas and recruit internationally. Again, an expensive but worthwhile enterprise.

Rhetoric or resurgence?

The rhetoric of Brexit will no doubt loom large in 2018, but the drive for greater cost control across financial and professional services in Scotland will arguably have a bigger impact.

Sector consolidation, the burden of regulation, and the cost of moving to a fairer and more equal business environment will have a dampening effect on salary levels and recruitment activity - particularly across permanent roles.

Temporary and contract roles will perhaps be the exception. Merger and relocation projects, regulatory change programmes and IT infrastructure upgrades may even result in an upturn for day-rate workers.

For many professionals, however, opportunities for career advancement and significant salary hikes will be limited.

That said, as negotiations play out towards the March 2019 deadline, it may be Brexit - that provides a much-needed shot in the arm to the economy.

Markets and businesses hate uncertainty. If the details of Brexit can be agreed - even, if not, necessarily embraced – by all, clarity could provide a much-needed boost to economic sentiment. 2018 could even end on a high.

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2. Asset Management

Market Commentary

Last year the asset management sector in Scotland was dominated by takeovers, mergers and acquisitions. Reasons for such activity varied: some companies were driven by a desire to strengthen their market position, others to achieve greater economies of scale.

Whatever the motivation, these large scale corporate transactions had far-reaching consequences for both employers and workers.

Sector consolidation received a mixed reaction from candidates. Some were desperate to ‘jump ship’, fearful of being victims of the restructurings to come.

Anticipating a flood of fellow professionals looking for new roles, they wanted to gain first-mover advantage.

Others, however, saw changes in the sector as an exciting opportunity for career advancement, seeing themselves as likely beneficiaries from any upheaval.

In many ways, candidates were polarised into pessimists and optimists. But whatever their disposition, asset management professionals needed to remain open-minded in an uncertain market.

Sector consolidation

Overall in 2017, the number of roles coming to the market declined. This was largely a result of the consolidation among the bigger players.

That said, investment boutiques did help mitigate this drop off, growing headcount as their businesses expanded.

It was difficult to assess how much of this slowdown was due to the shadow of Brexit.

Certainly, firms were reviewing their options and preparing contingency plans, although it was not clear how much of this was due to Brexit and how much a perennial drive for cost efficiencies.

There were murmurings in the market that some asset managers were exploring the offshoring of certain operations to mainland Europe.

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for asset management professionals in 2017. Companies outside of Scotland still viewed Edinburgh and Glasgow as an attractive place to have a business.

At least two high profile organisations expanded their functions in Edinburgh, moving roles from London and elsewhere, and investing in new office space.

Candidate opportunities

Interestingly, there appeared in some parts to be a reversal of the onshoring trend occurring in the asset servicing sector. This resulted in less and less opportunities for candidates.

It perhaps explains why more and more asset management professionals were open to considering roles in associated sectors, e.g. asset servicing, wealth management and investment platforms.

With MiFID II coming into force in January and GDPR in May, 2017 saw a steep increase in regulatory and compliance roles.

Candidates with Packaged Retail and Insurance-based Investment Products (PRIIPs), Senior Manager Regime (SMR) and MiFID II experience were particularly in demand.

This was still a very restricted talent pool, as candidates are often well compensated and keen to stay in their roles to finish projects. Employers often had to look to London and overseas to secure the right skills and experience.

With some clients entering into new markets – the US, for example - there was also demand for individuals for regulatory knowledge outside of the UK.

Other roles in demand were project managers and business analysts with an IT or technology connection. There was also focus on relationship management positions, whether with clients or third-party vendors.

The dearth of suitably experienced investment analysts also continued in 2017. CFA-qualified candidates found themselves in a very strong position.

Encouragingly, the investment banking and corporate finance sectors in Scotland have been increasingly open to considering asset management candidates, especially those with a CFA qualification.

With a restricted pool of suitable finance candidates, these employers were more open to considering professionals with similar skill sets.

This is welcome news for investment professionals open to the prospect of moving from the buy side to the sell side.


Across the board, salaries remained stable. However, one difference was that Scottish-based clients were more likely to match London rates rather than the usual default drop.

Employers realised they were often searching for a needle in a haystack and wanted to ensure they didn’t lose out on the most suitable candidate.


It is difficult to predict how Scotland’s asset management sector will take shape in 2018.

Talk in the market suggests that some firms are gearing up for expansion plans and looking at introducing new initiatives, although it is not yet clear in what form this will take.

Conversely, others may be looking to streamline and consolidate functions further. Again, it is not apparent at this stage which locations will benefit – Scotland or mainland Europe.

Based on the state of the labour market towards the end of 2017, this year should see an increase in talent available to employers across the board.

That said, difficult-to-fill roles will still require an open mind and a wider net. Employers will need to be quick off the mark to avoid losing out on candidates with specialist skills in limited talent pools. A streamlined recruitment process will be crucial.

That said, early signs in 2018 suggest we may be moving to a slightly more client-driven market.

Savvy professionals would do well to increase their competitive edge, adding to their professional qualifications and finding ways to gain extra experience from their current roles.

Candidates, too, need to be more open minded about where they look for opportunities.

Opportunities do exist in asset servicing, wealth, platforms and corporate finance. They should not be dismissed out of hand.

Asset management salaries in Scotland

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3. Asset Servicing

Rachael O'Neill
Senior Business Manager, Investment Operations – Financial Services
Contact Rachael

Market Commentary

Scotland continues to be viewed by many organisations as a key hub for talent and as such 2017 saw encouraging if not spectacular recruitment in the asset servicing sector.

Hiring was dominated by a growth in specialist roles within business change, regulatory & risk specialists and increasingly IT-related operational roles.

As companies continued to look for talent, candidate pools tightened – particularly in niche areas.

Candidate shortages in specialist pricing, trade and middle office roles were especially evident. This scarcity was not matched by a lowering of client expectations. Consequently, time to hire increased throughout 2017, much to the dismay of hiring managers.

Talent was increasingly found in the asset management sector, with 2017 creating uncertainty for operational and change specialists following the merger of two high profile investment houses.

2017 also witnessed an increase in candidates relocating to Scotland from other parts of the UK.

Roles in demand

Demand was high for asset servicing specialists with at least three years industry knowledge. Those within pricing were particularly sought after.

This was partly down to some organisations growing their operational hubs but also down to continued success of Scottish-based asset servicing functions winning new clients.

This also led to an increase in client servicing and fund implementation specialists.

2017 continued to see asset servicing companies grappled with increased regulatory change requests from clients.

Demand was high for project managers, business analysts and change managers with both operational and regulatory expertise.

Another growth area as a consequence of increased regulatory demand was connected to reporting, as clients implemented MIFID II. Mid-level roles within financial crime and anti-money laundering were also evident throughout the year.


Salary levels were static in 2017. Barely keeping pace with inflation, it could be argued that there was even a fall in real terms.

While there were a few exceptions for highly technical roles with a focus on business change, few people experienced significant uplifts in salary.

This may be partly down to fewer companies counter offering. In 2017 it seemed people moved for factors other than salary alone.

This sideways movement, punctuated by specific spikes, looks set to continue in 2018.


Hiring activity this year is likely to see continued growth. With the new financial year will come fresh budgets. This will coincide with greater candidate movement once the bonus season concludes in March.

Technical roles will continue to be in demand, especially those related to regulatory changes.

It remains be seen what impact Brexit will have in the asset servicing sector. While many of the big names in the industry have mentioned moving their operational sites outside of London, Scottish hubs should be little impacted.

As a result, the phenomenon of ‘near-shoring’ will likely continue. Companies are already gearing up for the transfer of oversight functions from London and mainland Europe to Scotland.

These units will be focused on KYC, compliance, sanctions and pricing – supervising the operational and administrative work done in Poland and India.

In 2018 it will continue to be a very constricted labour market for specialist skills. High quality candidates will be in demand, with employers looking to attract talent not just from Scotland but also from the likes of London, Manchester and Dublin.

Asset servicing salaries in Scotland

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4. Wealth, Platforms & Pensions

Louise Powrie
Director – Financial & Professional Services
Contact Louise

Market commentary

2017 was the beginning of the acquisition trail for the sector, with some of the big, established names on their way out.

This was not unexpected as the industry prepared for further cost efficiencies, tough competition and increased regulations. We said goodbye to Cofunds, Old Mutual and Towry but saw continued strength with Aegon, Quilters and Tilney consequently.

2017 saw little significant hiring activity, with the relatively few spikes in salary increases connected with attracting niche talents to the sector.

MiFID II and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) had a much more direct impact, with firms taking on additional expertise to prepare and implement the changes required from both pieces of regulation.

Wealth management

Wealth management continued to be an area of growth in Scotland in 2017. We saw an encouraging number of roles being released to the market.

This was both within advisory teams and investment management functions. Another positive aspect was that vacancies were available across junior, mid and senior level positions.

The need for experienced and qualified investment managers remained consistent in 2017 with a few movements in the market. The challenge in attracting senior specialists to move externally remained.

To meet the demand, an increasing number of wealth managers took decisive action to address talent shortages in key areas. Many firms began traineeships, focusing on developing their own paraplanners and advisers.

These initiatives followed years of fruitless searches for suitably experienced professionals seeking moves externally.

Such moves are to be encouraged, and should put the sector on a much firmer footing in the future. However, in the interim, a gap will remain between those at the start of their careers and those nearing the end.


In 2017 the platforms industry continued to play a significant role in the heath of the financial services sector. But recruitment was static on the permanent side, with no huge spike in one particular area.

There were lots of background changes as the platform sector continued its path towards consolidation, but also interestingly 2017 saw a growing role for the smaller, niche and more cost-effective platforms. 

Recruitment was firmly centred around how platforms continued to attract and offer the best products and services.

This led to an increase in product and fund specialists to look at the governance frameworks, an increase in technology specialists to address user friendly interfaces and back-end integrations, as well as specialist operational roles.

Platform technology providers continue to drive recruitment. As the established providers gained new clients throughout the UK, this led to an increase in the need to hire additional staff across relationship management, business analysis and product development.

Smaller platform providers also emerged. Hubwise and Embark have been looking to challenge the more established players. This should create further job opportunities as they continue to disrupt the market.

The backdrop to all this activity has been a growing interest from the FCA. Its recent study into the investment platforms industry has stressed the need for more scrutiny of the products and processes involved. Additional regulatory specialists’ roles across the sector has been the result.


In a sector not renowned for its speed of change, pension providers were still trying to establish key product areas to focus on following the Pensions Freedom Act.

Despite the slow pace, these are likely to be in areas such as Equity Drawdown and Self-Invested Pension Plans. We already saw many companies looking for more technical specialists in these areas.

On the flip side, with Pensions Auto-Enrolment set to come into force in February 2018, implementation consultants were needed less and less in 2017.

Some organisations chose to make redundancies. But with valuable transferrable skills, many of these professionals should find positions in other areas of the industry.

The drive for smaller cost bases continued to be a challenge last year. As margins were squeezed, firms strove for greater economies of scale. Sector consolidation will continue.

Recruitment among actuaries was steady throughout 2017. Demand remained static across the board, from actuarial analysts within both defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC) fields, investment specialists, through to fully qualified Pension Consultants.

There were some challenges in niche skills, particularly for part-qualified actuaries open to a move before they have completed their qualification.


There was no significant uplift in salaries across the sector. Whilst demand was high in certain roles, namely in the paraplanning and experienced platform specialists, budgets didn’t allow for substantial uplifts.

It has been increasingly apparent that as salaries and markets levelled, companies were using wider benefits such as flexible working to play a bigger part in attracting talent.

One thing that did change in 2017 were people’s motivations and desire to move roles. In previous years, candidates were much more fearful about change – particularly within the life and pensions arena – but change is fast becoming the norm.


The need for advice, whether in a fee based or advisory capacity, is likely to be a key trend throughout 2018. The demand for wealth managers and financial planners is likely to remain static.

We may see an increase in robo-advice or advisory services within the pension provider, particularly as pensions auto-enrolment moves to the next stage.

Companies seeking to maximise the secondary market, both in retention and growth, is likely.

2018 may also see some significant change across the platform and pension sectors. With many organisations looking at structures there may be an increase in rationalisation.

The impact this will have across the Scottish operations remains to be seen as Scotland remains a strategic hub for many: the available talent is high, and the cost base is lower than London or other parts of the UK.

As Brexit continues to offer up more questions than answers, it remains to be seen if this will have a major impact on what is a very UK-centric industry. This should mean that any impact will be minimal. We may see further consolidation in 2018, but this is expected.

This year should continue to see a growth in compliance and regulatory roles. Financial crime and the implementation of GDPR in May will create additional positions.

Indeed, it will be interesting to see whether the large number of people transferring out of DB schemes results in a misselling scandal similar to PPI.

Concerns remain over people being put under pressure to transfer out when it is not in the best interests to do so. This may see a rise in demand for DB specialists across the actuarial field as well as within the adviser community.

Technology, of course, will also be a focus in 2018. But what does this mean for career prospects?

Gone are the days of a traditional role. Professionals need to embrace rather than fear technology. They need to diversify their skills, gaining additional qualifications and adding to their regulatory experience.

If they do, the future is bright. Both for them and their employers.

Wealth management, platforms and pensions salaries in Scotland

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5. Specialist Accounting and Finance

John Docherty
Associate Director – Accounting & Finance
Contact John

Market Commentary

2017 was largely static in terms of accounting and finance (A&F) recruitment activity. There were no dramatic salary shifts and no fundamental movements within Scotland.

However, beneath this ‘steady as she goes’ market, demand for qualified individuals remained reasonably strong.

With so much uncertainty over the last few years - referendums, political upheavals (both at home and abroad), and Brexit’s shadow unsettling businesses - 2017 made its own contribution with some sizeable merger and acquisition activity.

This engendered some mild recruitment paralysis, slowing the circulation of jobs as businesses were largely reticent to increase staff numbers.

Many candidates chose to ‘play it safe’ in this uncertain environment, arguably to the detriment of their own personal development and career advancement.

There are signs some A&F professionals, especially those scoring highly in their performance reviews without any tangible recognition of their contribution, are growing impatient for internal progression paths to open up and as such 2018 may see a more pro-active rather than passive candidate pool.


Demand increased at the senior end of the market, with managers, senior managers and divisional heads all sought after. Much of this talent is incubated within public practice, where the ‘Big 4’ house much of the experience.

The profession held its own with many choosing to stay rather than step through the looking glass into industry.

While usual movement from practice to industry remained, there was a growing trend of many choosing to return to practice. This was for various reasons:

  • Technical overhaul to bring their experience up to speed
  • Variety of work / client exposure
  • Broader interaction with wider industry (be that retail banking, asset management, insurance, etc.)
  • Greater flexibility in working patterns, and improved work-life balance

Regulatory accounting

There was a constant demand throughout 2017 for individuals with these skills, especially within the asset servicing space. Many trained within the ‘Big 4’ crossed this bridge directly into financial services industry.

Larger, predominantly international businesses had a consistent requirement within their legal entity teams.


Many businesses were adding resource to their tax teams in 2017. Demand across multiple disciplines such as Corporate Tax, Private Client, Fund Tax, Transaction Tax, CGT and Withholding Tax was common.

In an increasingly global market many financial services firms were looking for individuals capable of learning about tax in other jurisdictions, particularly North America.

Some businesses have struggled recruiting in this area of expertise. Increasingly, with the talent pool running dry, transferable skills had to be considered.

Within practice, there was lots of movement among tax specialists. In 2017 tax was a growing and profitable offering.

Financial reporting

Changes in GAAP conversion and reporting standards (e.g. IFRS 9, IFRS 15, IFRS 6 and IFRS 17) had businesses rewiring many reporting processes.


There were only incremental changes in how clients approached salary bandings in 2017.

However, there was a greater instance of having to go the top end of salary ranges to secure talent, suggesting that bandings will either stretch or break in 2018.

This is evidenced from two years post-qualified to directorships. The more senior the appointment the more pronounced this trend was.

Many businesses took the effort to build business cases to break with budget and secure the best applicant.


It is hard to predict whether this year will prove as undramatic as 2017, or with the deadline for Brexit looming ever nearer, there will be more seismic shifts across the accountancy profession. Some trends do, however, seem likely.


Rule books are getting bigger. In 2018 finance professionals will play a pivotal role in facilitating and embedding change, helping their boards and wider businesses adapt to regulatory progress. MiFID II, FINREP, COREP, PRUVAL, PRIIPS – acronyms crowd the regulatory landscape.

This should provide plenty of opportunity for the profession to play a greater advisory role in tandem with its bedrock services of audit and assurance.


In step with this regulatory change, there will be a renewed emphasis on finance and accounting functions better partnering businesses.

Communication skills will be at a premium, particularly in the task of translating hundreds of pages of rules and regulations into clear and practical steps for implementation.

As one business executive said: “We are looking for people who can take 800 pages of legislation and summarise it down to one page of actions.“

Technical knowledge will not be enough. Internal stakeholders will need to be educated about these changes, and their implications. The executive will require steering in the right direction. Regulators will need to have technical queries answered to their satisfaction.

Transactional accounting

Whether it is further merger and acquisition activity, preparing initial public offerings, legal entity restructuring, or the unfolding impact of Brexit, 2018 will provide plenty of technical challenges for the Scottish financial sector, the public practices that support it, and the professionals who work across both sectors.

Stasis or chrysalis in 2018?

It remains to be seen whether this year follows the same holding pattern as 2017. Employers and professionals alike have sat on their hands for some time.

This year might well be the one where change takes place almost out of defiance of the long-term stasis.

Market conditions presently don’t look likely to produce the level of opportunity the market hankers for.

As such, there seems to be a growing groundswell of opinion among Scottish-based accountants that they will consider a longer commute or even relocation, if it provides a boost to their career prospects.

Working in London – or indeed somewhere like Dublin or other EU cities benefitting from the Brexit fallout– and travelling home on a weekly basis, is much more common that it was before the financial crisis.

Businesses that can offer high performers increased stakeholder exposure, greater strategic input, greater flexibility in terms of working arrangements, more managerial responsibility or simply a better financial package, will be better placed to retain talent in these conditions.

There does remain room for optimism, however. Regardless of how the Brexit cards fall, or how the economy responds, Scotland is still a great place to do business.

There is great bio-diversity of businesses to ensure a steady flow of opportunity, even in difficult economic conditions.

Accounting and finance salaries in Scotland

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6. Legal services

Andrew Inglis
Business Manager – Legal
Contact Andrew

Market commentary

Last year was an encouraging year for the legal sector in Scotland, both in terms of business growth and rising recruitment activity.

Uncertainty surrounding Brexit had less of an effect than in 2016. This was not due to greater clarity in terms of the UK’s departure from Europe. It was due more to a stubborn pragmatism, a recognition that it was better to ‘get on with it’ than wait for resolution.

Commercial real estate

Recruitment activity within commercial real estate remained at steady levels throughout 2017. This was helped in no small part by fairly buoyant property markets in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The number of vacancies released for commercial property lawyers was similar to 2016, and were predominantly at the junior end of the market, i.e. Newly-qualified to 5-year post-qualified (5PQE).

Private practice law firms in Scotland were still suffering from a dearth of more experienced real estate lawyers, as the effects of the recession’s hiring freeze unwound.


The abolition of employment tribunal fees last year had a significant impact on law activity in this area. With the introduction of fees in 2013, cases brought to court had plummeted by as much as 80%. A return to pre-2013 levels is expected.

This has, in turn, led to an increase in demand for experienced employment lawyers. Unsurprisingly, vacancies in this area grew in 2017.


The number of personal injury claims – road traffic accidents, industrial diseases, medical negligence, etc - continued to grow in 2017, and with it the demand for experienced solicitors, whether on the pursuers or defendants side.

Many law firms and the lawyers within them, however, were keen to escape the risk of being pigeon-holed into personal injury specialists. In response, some sought to diversify into commercial litigation – professional negligence, medical negligence or large-scale insurance claims.

The rise in white collar crime – fraud, cyber crime, etc – and law suits surrounding it, was particularly pronounced in 2017 and drove the demand for lawyers with the requisite experience in these areas.


In contrast to 2016, the last 12 months of 2017 witnessed more M&A, restructuring, management buyout and buy-in deals.

In addition, several London-based firms engaged the services of private practices north of the border to support regional-specific activity.

It appeared that many businesses concluded that Brexit was going to happen, so they may as well get on with things. This pragmatism created greater positivity in the marketplace.

Uncertainty still hung over Scotland’s oil and gas sector, but there were occasional signs of green shoots of recovery. Large asset sales by the likes of Shell to Chrysaor hopefully indicates that increased inward investment is now on the horizon.

On balance, 2017 was an encouraging year for corporate and commercial lawyers in Scotland.


2017 was a busy period of hiring for financial sector firms looking to bolster their inhouse legal functions.

Banks, in particular, took on a number of additional staff to help with M&A, commercial contracts and regulatory risk.

Asset management, too, released a steady flow of vacancies to the market. This was a combination of newly created roles and replacements.

Employers set the bar high for legal candidates in 2017, holding out not just for legal expertise but also cultural fit and commercial acumen.

A persistent trend across associated sectors – such as fintech, renewables and oil & gas – was the strategy of bringing more legal expertise in-house. As companies grew, especially within the renewables sector, they reduced costs by relying less on external advice.


Across the board in 2017 salary levels remained broadly flat, aside from occasional uplifts of £1,000-2,000 at the newly-qualified level.

Lawyers in the mid-to-partner bracket saw salaries simply keep pace with inflation. Nevertheless, those who outperformed their peers and added demonstrable value to the business were recognised accordingly.

Indeed, lawyers were much more aware of what they billed and the value they added to their business. They were also quicker to make a business case for a justifiable increase.

However, the reverse was also the case. Firms identifying solicitors who were bringing little revenue into the business were more willing to take decisive action, ‘exiting’ those viewed as being unable to turn around poor performance.

Although confidence slowly returned to the market in 2017, inertia at the pre-partner level remained.

Most equity partners continued to protect stakes, fearful of a dilution of earnings if partner numbers increased.


We expect the legal market to remain upbeat in 2018. The likely impact of Brexit on both the sector and the wider economy remains unclear. Pragmatism should continue to drive activity.

Corporate and commercial areas of law firms will continue to be busy, and in-house functions of financial sector companies will continue to grow.

Opportunities will exist for ambitious lawyers with the right mix of subject matter expertise and commercial nous.

Successful Scottish law firms in 2018 and beyond will be those who recognise and embrace the opportunities that technology will bring, both in automating processes such as conveyancing and in granting employees greater flexibility in and out of the workplace.

This second point will be particularly important in ensuring private practices attract and retain the very best people.

Trainee intake levels should for the first time return to pre-recession levels, creating a strong and steady pipeline of talent.

Flexible working will be critical in ensuring these people don’t leave the businesses that have invested in their development.

In-house legal roles across industry are proving ever more attractive because of this issue.

Law firms would be wise to recognise that salary is not always the main factor in considering a move. Career development and greater work-life balance will be huge drivers in the year ahead.

Legal salaries in Scotland

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7. Interim, temporary & contract

Mike Stirton
Director – Interim, Temporary & Contract
Contact Mike

Market commentary

Last year the interim, temporary and contract (ITC) market started very slowly but rallied from the summer onwards. This was mainly due to the prospect of Brexit initially ‘spooking’ many employers, with no one company hiring in significant numbers.

As the year progressed, a realisation took hold that the world was still turning, and work still needed to get done. The second half of the year experienced a boost in shorter-term recruitment as a result.

This upturn was demonstrated by an increase in recruitment to accommodate the impact of external regulatory demands. The likes of MiFID II and GDPR involved work that simply had to be completed. Businesses could no longer justify inaction.

Projects of this nature required project and data specialists at planning level, all the way through to those capable of assisting with testing, implementation and review tasks.

As anticipated in last year’s Salary Guide, US companies were the most active in the temporary and contract market in 2017.

UK firms did little in H1 but a lot more in H2, while their US counterparts were steady throughout.

So what impact did this have on the availability of ITC talent and the rates associated?

The inactivity we witnessed in the first half of 2017, coupled with the fact contract renewals were less frequent during this period, led to an increasing pool of quality candidates becoming available.

This rare occurrence of supply outstripping demand also served to keep rates static. In some pockets we even witnessed rates reducing.

Things did settle down over the summer, however, with the balance of supply and demand returning to historic norms.

IT and Change

As mentioned above, any interim hiring activity in this area tended to be regulatory-driven. Most roles sought change professionals with credentials within underlying business areas, such as operations.

However, towards the end of 2017 we started to witness an increase in more IT-led roles, from infrastructure engineers to a wide range of developers.

This suggests firms were starting to think proactively about their future operating models and the best software available to support them.

Much of the software looking to be implemented, if not self-developed, tended to be applications that supported a ‘smarter’ and secure, collaborative working environment.

Core Business Functions

Across core business functions most ITC recruitment across core business functions was driven by US companies in the first half of the year.

Otherwise it tended to be focused on natural attrition rather than the disruptive influence of large change projects.

Hiring was spread evenly across many core business disciplines with no significant spikes to report.

H2 painted a different picture, however. On top of the usual hiring patterns, the impact of regulatory change began to filter through. This placed additional strain upon core functions, which in turn led to an increase in ITC hiring.

Workers were hired to either cover for permanent staff, who had moved to projects, or to assist directly with the additional workstreams.

This meant there were increasing opportunities for business-as-usual (BAU) professionals with transferrable skills to experience roles which included change. Typical tasks involved testing, process mapping and data analysis.

We also witnessed a gradual increase in interim rates as the year progressed.

Accounting & Finance

ITC hiring in this area was resolute in 2017, with a gradual increase in activity as the year progressed. Again, US firms were largely responsible. Rates tended to be static and in line with 2016.

Generally, accounting and finance professionals have two advantages in the labour market: their role in a company is a necessary one, so it tends to be one of the last areas to be subject to budget cuts; also, they have highly transferrable skills and as a result can work across many functions and sectors.

However, one of accounting and finance’s sub specialisms, fund accounting within the investment sector, was particularly depressed in the ITC market in 2017.

This was largely due to an absence of large-scale operational projects that traditionally snap up ITC talent. For example, third party outsourcing, business integrations or product launches.

Added to this was the trend of natural attrition not being backfilled. This was probably due to overstaffing in previous years.

Business Support

This is the most traditional area of ITC recruitment, and what many people refer to as ‘temping’, as it includes roles administrative and supportive in nature.

In 2017 activity was very much seasonal, covering financial year end and summer holidays. Replacements following natural attrition and cover for maternity leave also helped support the temporary market in this area.

The dominating theme of 2017, however, was that many support roles – HR, marketing, project management support, etc. – were viewed as a luxury. That said, we did see a softening of this stance and a returning confidence as the year ended.

Rates were largely static and in line with 2016, although with the rising cost of living, we did start to see some movement among entry to mid-level roles.


The first half of this year should see a sharp spike in demand for ITC workers. This is due to some sizeable merger and relocation projects across financial services in Scotland.

We will witness several large players defining new target operating models, and would expect to experience an increase in demand for change professionals and any BAU staff where gaps start to emerge.

Regulatory change (MiFID II – January, GDPR – May) will also continue to create need as programmes make their final push towards completion.

IT recruitment levels should continue at an encouraging pace as the upgrading or deployment of new applications will be required to support new target operating models.

We expect to see further embracing of Agile methodology and practices throughout the sector.

The nature of many of the programmes and their knock-on effect means recruitment will gather pace in 2018 and hiring restrictions will thaw.

Any upturn in the market is likely to tip the supply and demand balance in favour of the worker. As a result, we expect rates to rise across the board.

Interim, temporary and contract salaries in Scotland

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8. Methodology

The purpose of this guide is to provide insight into current salary and employment trends in the asset management, accounting & finance, asset servicing, legal and wider financial services sectors in Scotland.

The salary ranges quoted are indicative of salaries candidates with similar experience might expect to earn in 2018, and are exclusive of bonus and benefits. Contract and temporary day rates are based on a seven-hour day.

The information in this report is provided as a general guide only. Salary data is gathered from registering candidates, job offers and placements made through Core-Asset Consulting in 2017, including data gathered from our clients and our extensive database of candidates.

Additional market insight is provided by our consultants’ knowledge and experience of market conditions.


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