Salary Guide 2019 : Scottish Financial and Professional Services

Table of Contents


Core-Asset Consulting’s Salary Guide 2019 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.

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

Last year we predicted that cost-cutting rather than Brexit would be the dominant theme affecting Scotland's financial and professional services sectors. This proved to be true.

In 2019 cost control will continue to exert a strong influence, changing the nature of many permanent and contract roles and negatively impacting these organisations abilities to succession plan effectively. 

Permanent Generalists

As 2019 progresses, and cost control continues to dominate, the scope of many permanent positions will expand and stretch. This will be a direct result of reduced headcount and increased workload.

For example, a company recruiting for a chief financial officer may now require the successful candidate to have legal experience in order to reduce external legal spend.

An employer looking for a client relations professional may require business development experience in a bid to offset stretched resources in sales and marketing.

This trend is already evident within investment operations where clients are now looking for candidates with both hands-on operational experience as well as a track record in oversight.

In addition, finance functions will no longer be expected to provide only an anchor to the business but also play a strategic role in setting its direction.

Accountants, in particular, will be asked to execute wide-ranging cost saving campaigns, implement stricter controls and implement better technology – all while contingency planning for Brexit.

As a result, when employers are looking to invest in a permanent hire, they will increasingly seek candidates with more than one discipline under their belt.

As cost cutting bites there will be a growing requirement for permanent employees to multitask across different functions, often taking on the responsibilities beyond their traditional business area.

This will make the task of recruiting in 2019 and into 2020 all the more challenging.

Contract Specialists

The bar has also been raised within the contract market, but in a different way.

2019 will see the continued rise of the specialist within temporary and contract recruitment. Specialists will be rewarded. Generalists will lose out.

The contract market is no longer dominated by traditional ‘bread and butter’ operational roles.

As companies modernise their working practices and embrace technology, new specialisms have been emerging in the market.

In step with this has been the reduction in high volume, ‘heavy lifting’ positions – such as reconciliation and transactional accounting – as back office functions become more automated.

Finding the contractors with the right specialist skill sets will become tougher for employers and recruiters.

Previously, employers have been content to look to generalists based locally in the Scottish market.

But as projects become more specialist companies will be further compelled to expand their search to London and overseas.

Raising the Bar

The broadening range of permanent positions and the growing specialist nature of contract roles mean that employers and recruiters will have to work harder – and smarter – than even before to meet the growing demands of hiring managers.

These contrasting trends do, however, signal good news for the right candidates.

Permanent professionals with a diverse background and the right broad skill set will be in high demand and command premium salaries.

Similarly, contract workers with niche skill sets – particularly in areas such as project management, business analysis and IT applications – will see their day rates increase as a result.

Succession Planning

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of continuing cost control policies will be its unintended and somewhat retrograde impact on succession planning.

Broad programmes of cost cutting have tended to focus on layers of middle management, particularly within large organisations.

However middle management is where organisations find tomorrow’s leaders. Employers therefore need to resist the temptation to put an indiscriminate red line through middle management.

They need to think more latterly regarding talent management and succession planning, other than simply focusing on cost cutting agendas and backfilling any immediate needs with specialist contracting requirements.

There is anecdotal evidence of firms thinning organisational structures based on crude methodology – for example, any managers responsible for teams of five or less.

This approach can unwittingly weaken the leadership prospects of any company.

The issue of succession planning is perhaps best illustrated by Scotland’s boutique-based asset management industry, where there are a strong number of investment houses with less than 50 employees and less than under £15bn of assets under management.

The leadership of this sector is dominated by an industry standard demographic with little diversity.

It is populated with mature individuals who are founding partners and leaders in their early to mid-50s, and where succession planning issues are already prevalent.

The recruitment freeze which followed the financial crisis has already helped create the current talent shortages across Scotland’s financial and professional services – a reduction in 2008-2012 graduate programmes being just one example.

Scottish companies would do well to avoid storing up future staffing problems by overzealous middle management redundancy programmes.

To access the salary information, please download a pdf copy of the Salary Guide.

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2. Asset Management

Market Commentary

The number of front office vacancies across Scottish asset managers in 2018 was up noticeably on 2017. Hiring activity relating to investment analysts, portfolio managers and fund managers increased by over 25 per cent on the previous 12 months.

Vacancies tended to fall into two broad categories: junior roles looking for up to five years’ experience, and positions requiring a decade of expertise.

There were very few roles between or above these bands, and very little ‘head of’ or chief investment officer-level vacancies.


Interestingly, there was a growing requirement from clients that front office asset management professionals matched the investment philosophy of the hiring organisation or team.

Unless their investment outlook and approach correlated directly with their prospective employer, applicants were less likely than in previous years to progress to a first interview.

Whether the candidate favoured a value, growth or contrarian approach, philosophies had to be closely aligned.


This focus on philosophy derived from asset managers desire to differentiate their product offering from competitors.

The Scottish fund management industry continued to polarise in 2018.

Some of the giants of the sector grew ever larger, while boutique firms established themselves more firmly at the other end of the scale.

Mid-size firms were few and far between in 2018.

This was one reason many companies tried to leverage a unique selling point. Increasingly, this was an asset manager’s investment philosophy or process.


Connected with this drive for differentiation was the more prominent role the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) qualification played within the recruitment process.

As we discussed in an article earlier in 2018, for investment analysts, portfolio managers and fund managers, the CFA has almost become a statutory requirement.

This is stark contrast to even a decade ago, when many front office professionals became qualified through experience.

Clients increasingly wanted to market an investment team which espoused a strong investment philosophy and was highly qualified and highly experienced.

There were even instances of some boutiques – those lacking a structured graduate programme – only prepared to hire a trainee investment analyst if they held a CFA Level 1.


We also witnessed a number of new startup fund managers.

Much of this was driven by the shake up and fallout from widespread sector consolidation, prompting some ‘stars’ of the industry to leave the large corporate environment and strike out on their own.

This trend towards the establishment of ‘micro boutiques’ was not restricted to Scotland.

Similar dynamics were playing out in other markets internationally, as well as adjacent sectors such as wealth management.

Those with long enough memories may have been reminded of parallels with Ivory & Sime in the early 1990s.


Salaries in 2018 were largely in line with those of 2016 and 2017. Basic salaries should remain steady in 2019, but ‘variable compensation’ as a proportion of total reward is likely to increase.

For front office positions this variable element normally related to fund performance and applied either directly to the individual (named portfolio manager) or the team (investment analyst).


The next 12 months will be fascinating. The large established asset managers are looking to expand in 2019.

Some are looking to do this by entering new asset classes, others by entering new geographies. A few are looking to do both.

These ambitious expansion plans will call for the sourcing of additional talent.

However Brexit - and the shadow of uncertainty it continues to cast - will mean attracting the best people to Scotland remains a real challenge. It may even become harder.

Another challenge facing the Scottish asset management industry in 2019 will be succession planning.

The leadership of the sector in Scotland is dominated by a handful of men in their late 50s and early 60s. There seems little indication of who will succeed them.

The challenge of succession planning is being exacerbated by the rise of micro boutiques, as some ‘next-in-line’ lieutenants have moved to head up their own businesses.

There were signs towards the end of 2018 that succession planning was taking precedence over the drive for greater diversity within the industry.

It will be interesting to see if this victory of pragmatism over idealism is reversed in 2019.

The most successful asset managers may even consider squaring this circle by promoting women to the top job.

Asset Management Salaries in Scotland

To access the salary information, please download a pdf copy of the Salary Guide.

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3. Financial Services

Louise Powrie
Director – Financial & Professional Services
Contact Louise

Market Commentary

In 2018 as a whole, the financial services sector in Scotland continued to see a great deal of corporate activity, whether in the form of acquisitions, mergers, flotations, disposals or demergers.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the uncertainties generated by Brexit, asset management, wealth management and the fintech sector all experienced growth.

But it was a year of ‘two halves’. The first six months of 2018 saw steady if unremarkable levels of recruitment activity.

The remainder of the year was probably the busiest it has been for several years and continued as we drew towards the end of the year.

M&A activity created stimulus within the market. The uncertainty that restructures can sometimes bring helped increase talent mobility. New players to the market brought opportunities.

Wealth Management

Wealth management experienced change in 2018 in Scotland.

This was through a combination of acquisitions or new entrants to the market, all focused on growing their presence within the Scottish market.

Notably, Rathbones bought Spiers & Jeffrey, Seven Investment Management acquired TCAM, and Julius Baer established an office in Edinburgh.

There was a recognition that a great deal of wealth still existed in Scotland, as well as a growing realisation that many Scottish clients preferred their assets to be managed domestically.

While not unexpected, it was the concentration of activity within such a relatively short space of time which helped boost the market.

With growth came the drive for talent across both investment managers and financial planners – and subsequent support staff, including paraplanners.

Established businesses needed to continue delivering a high level of service, maintaining a regulatory commitment with MiFID II and improving bespoke services – all to sustain maximum competitive advantage.

The need was to find talent that could develop as well as retain clients.

Many firms also acknowledged that their employee profile lacked diversity – dominated as it is by white, middle-aged males.

Of these three components, age may prove to be the hardest to diversify.

As the year progressed and stock market uncertainty increased, high net worth clients looked for ‘experienced veterans’ to help navigate and protect their wealth.

As a response, both employers and candidates really pushed advanced levels of qualifications.

To boost client credibility, chartered status of practitioners with less than 10 years’ experience became more common.

Overall the big challenge was enticing strong candidates to switch companies. In 2018 they were reluctant to move for little more than a like-for- like salary.

Wealth managers needed to work harder in attracting candidates through the use of a strong brand, sound infrastructure and true work-life balance.

As a consequence, some firms softened their stance on financial advisers and financial planners bringing with them a strong book of business.

Some were content that candidates demonstrate a strong potential for future business development.


Platform technology providers and businesses remains a key player in the UK market and continued to be an area of strong growth in 2018.

With the support of Fintech Scotland, Scotland is establishing itself as one of the world’s leading fintech hubs.

There were some significant trends in the market. Transact and Nucleus listed on the stock market in 2018.

Some huge ‘re-platforming’ projects were also underway, with consolidation taking place with Interactive Investors’ purchase of Alliance Trust Savings.

The platform technology providers continued to either expand existing services to clients or to grow their client base across the UK.

This growth brought the need for talent. Recruitment centred on professionals who could help with the migration of assets and enterprise-wide integrations.

Business analysts, project managers and developers were in high demand, as were relationship managers and product specialists.

Salaries in the sector remained static, with little increase in basic salaries as costs remained a major consideration for this sector.


There were significant changes in the Scottish pensions market in 2018.

Phoenix acquired Standard Life Assurance, Scottish Widows moved significant assets to Schroder in the form of a joint venture, and M&G demerged from Prudential.

Pension experts in areas such as Master Trusts, legal specialists and defined benefit administrators were all in high demand.

Recruitment was static across operations, sales, marketing and compliance.

While there was some restructuring across many of the established providers in Scotland, no real spikes or downturns were evident.

With Brexit at the front and centre of the Government’s focus, no new pension regulations lay in the pipeline.

The lack of consistency of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions over the past couple of years has meant no government policy impacted the sector this year.

As a result, firms could focus more on implementing their own strategic plans for growth rather than diverting resources to meeting the policy needs of government.

Pension & Actuarial Consultancies

There was a big demand in 2018 for pensions specialists across the sector.

This was particularly defined benefit pension administration, compliance specialists and pension and investment consultants.

This was partly to support increased scrutiny of pension transfers

As the industry becomes more complex and the focus is on protecting the end client through regulation and awareness, clients worked hard to ensure they had the right talent in place to meet client and market expectations.

Some pension schemes decided to outsource this task to consultancies to manage risk and costs.

With defined benefit schemes rapidly dwindling in numbers, the talent pool for real experts was tight, so counter-offers remained particularly high in this field.

Interestingly, to attract the right skills some clients offered incentives rather than increasing salaries.

Actuarial recruitment was static at all levels – part through to fully qualified. This was mirrored in salaries, with very few actuaries experiencing increases.

Asset Management Middle Office

During the first quarter of 2018 there was little recruitment activity among Scotland’s established investment houses.

Decisions were still being made about integrations, restructurings and the clarification of business needs.

However, the market picked up from April onwards with a number of asset managers looking towards growth.

The biggest demand for candidates came across audit, operations, regulatory and operational risk, client services, marketing, IT and change.

In 2018 candidates became more open to changing employers than in previous years. M&A activity inevitably provided both opportunity and challenge.

While internal moves opened up for some, for others there was a lack of control or clarity on previously well-defined career paths.

Nevertheless, this all helped create a relatively fluid labour market throughout the second half of 2018.

While the market continued to grow this had little impact on salary levels. They remained largely flat year on year. This was due to overall budgets remaining a key focus and staff costs being managed accordingly.


At the time of writing, Brexit and its continued uncertainty is having only a modest impact on recruitment levels across financial services in Scotland.

Although it remains unclear what route Brexit will take, the general mood for 2019 should be one of cautious optimism.

Much of the contingency work for Brexit has been done. And companies have become well used to the uncertainty.

Many financial services companies in Scotland have the advantage of being based in the UK but having global reach. This should help minimise any fallout.

Recruitment activity should remain buoyant in 2019 but may level out to more historical business as- usual levels.

We wait to see if others follow the trend of Lloyds Banking Group and Schroders in creating a financial planning service to target the gap between the mass market and high net worth clients. Will 2019 see the return of advisers in banks?

Technology will continue to be a key focus for talent across the sector in 2019.

With the recent announcement of an additional £5m pledge to support the Pension Dashboard, it is likely demand will be high across both fintech and pension providers.

Salaries may see an uplift in absolute terms but we do not anticipate significant growth in real wages.

Candidates who should do well in 2019 will be the those with the requisite professional qualifications – whether it is the CFA or CISI or CII – and who can demonstrate an ongoing commitment to personal development.

Agile, regulatory, pension, compliance and risk specialists will be in high demand.

Financial Services Salaries in Scotland

To access the salary information, please download a pdf copy of the Salary Guide.

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4. Investment Operations

Rachael O'Neill
Associate Director, Investment Operations – Financial Services
Contact Rachael

Market Commentary

2018 was much busier than 2017 when it came to the recruitment of investment operations professionals. This resulted in candidates having more career opportunities from which to choose.

The cause of this was two-fold: the continuing trend of companies onshoring to Scotland, and TPAs success in winning new business.

We saw both TPAs and asset managers moving operational teams from London and the Southeast to Edinburgh and Glasgow in the last 12 months.

In addition, a number of already established TPAs sought to build out teams with greater technical expertise – for example, within fund accounting.

Roles in Demand

There was a significant increase in the number of roles in 2018. Vacancies existed across:

  • Transfer agency
  • Business analysis
  • Project management
  • Performance
  • Client service
  • Custody
  • Corporate pricing

There was a specific demand among more specialist roles, particularly within the transfer agency space. Here, clients were looking for strong operational experience as well as transfer agency expertise. This combination was hard to find in 2018.

The challenge is that many employers want candidates with hands-on experience but also with a track record in oversight. But in recent years the trend of offshoring operational administration to Poland and India has meant that few UK candidates have both.

Time to Hire

The recruitment process for investment operations professionals showed no sign of shortening in 2018. While the time to hire within asset management typically took four to six weeks, for certain TPAs it could stretch from four to six months.

This protracted process was largely the result of longer background checks. Larger TPAs typically have many more hoops and hurdles for candidates to navigate, and increased legislation has led to much more stringent checks.


Throughout 2018 Brexit appeared to have no braking effect on recruitment activity within investment operations.

Many clients have growth plans and teams continue to be built out in Scotland. Although it’s difficult to anticipate Brexit’s long-term effect on the sector, the last 12 months have been hugely encouraging.


Salaries remained static in 2018. No one employer was paying a premium in the hiring of investment operations professionals.

Employers and candidates have witnessed increased choice in the market. But clients often refused to increase their initial offer if it was declined our countered.

Budgets continued to be inflexible.


2019 should largely follow the trends set by 2018. We do not anticipate recruitment activity slowing down, aside from the typical seasonal lulls.

Salaries are not expected to grow in any significant manner, despite demand for candidates across a broad sweep of investment operational – transfer agency, settlements, corporate actions, fund accounting, etc.

The outlook for candidates, however, is encouraging.

The instability created by M&A activity now means that back office staff in asset management are more willing than before to consider a move to a third-party administrator. Indeed, good opportunities exist in both sectors.

Candidates with transfer agency experience should do particularly well in 2019. It is here where they biggest demand and highest volume of roles will sit. Successful applications should be able to command a nominal salary uplift.

Investment Operations Salaries in Scotland

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5. Specialist Accounting and Finance

John Docherty
Associate Director – Accounting & Finance
Contact John

Market Commentary

While 2018 remained a time of uncertainty, it also proved to be one of opportunity, and was a particularly busy year for accounting and finance recruitment in Scotland. We saw an increase in roles across our desks of around 20 per cent.

In 2018 employers were keen to enlist the help of audit professionals, with Big Four trained

accountants in demand from newly-qualified level all the way up to director. Those that had exposure to globally-scaled businesses were highly sought after.

Regulatory changes over the last 12 months – GDPR, SMCR and the FCA’s continuing scrutiny of asset management – meant companies needed to ensure their corporate lines of defence were strong.

Professionals with an accounting and finance background – particularly audit – were in demand for three main reasons:

  • Experience in testing controls
  • Possession of regulatory insight
  • Able to synthesise large amounts of technical detail and make it digestible to the wider business


Brexit, of course, was a focus in 2018.

Financial services providers and large accounting firms were drawn into contingency planning, preparing scenarios – both large and small – to offshore functions to locations such as Ireland, Luxembourg and Frankfurt.

Inevitably, these preparations led to a rise in hires across financial reporting, legal entity control, transfer pricing and tax


Other areas gaining prominence in 2018 was the way in which accountants made use of data – or big data to be exact.

Many businesses had access to a great deal of data but in many cases hadn’t yet created the processes and methods to leverage it commercially.

One of the big changes in 2018 was the greater use within accountancy and finance of artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate more mundane tasks.

Fintech companies were plugging this gap with a range of ‘software as a service’ products.

The reduction in manual production didn’t spell the end of accountants, however.

Technology freed up the best and brightest to add greater value to businesses, providing more forward-looking analysis, improving processes and generally adding to the bottom line – particularly within public practice.


As we have already mentioned, audit professionals were in high demand. Industry was keen to bolster its expertise in this area, largely by hiring talent from the Big Four.

The shift in staff from public practice to industry was probably at its highest for several years.

This in turn had accountancy firms dealing with greater resource pressures and walking a precarious tightrope in terms of work-life balance.

Practices tried to combat this by offering more flexible working and greater amounts of holidays.

However, in some cases, it resulted in unusual working cycles, where intense periods of activity were followed by long holidays

This pattern exacerbated the problem in some quarters.

Regulatory Accounting

Asset management regularly changes (SMCR) and changes to International Financial Reporting Standards were big challenges for accounting teams in 2018.

This regulatory burden, like audit, led to companies across industry hiring from the banking industry (where greater scrutiny has been the norm) and again the Big Four accountants with financial services expertise.


There was a huge demand for tax accountants throughout 2018. This was mainly because of simple supply and demand dynamics – there wasn’t enough tax professionals working in this area.

Partly in response, a lot of companies building inhouse tax teams, relying less on outsourcing to public practice. This led to increased demand.


There has been a lot of talk in recent months about UK wages rising at a rate not seen for a decade.

But within accounting and finance in Scotland salaries have largely remained stubbornly stable ever since the financial crisis, especially for the more recently qualified.

Latterly, however, we have witnessed some candidates receiving 15-20 per cent increases for moving jobs.

Similarly, counter offers have been much more prevalent recently – a tacit admission that salary levels for some positions are perhaps south of where they should be.


The challenge of how companies harness big data effectively will continue.

Finance professionals who can help implement the appropriate controls and translate and communicate the data to the business in a meaningful way will be in demand.

Finance functions are no longer expected to provide only an anchor to the business but also play an increasingly strategic role in determining the direction of a business.

Accountants are being asked to implement massive cost savings, stricter controls and better technology – all the while planning for Brexit.

The burden of these multiple pressures will ensure good accountants remain very much in demand.

As in 2018, we should continue to see new M&A activity and the fallout from previous mergers and disposals, particularly across financial services.

Business managers will remain focused on integration, migration and the melding of disparate controls and cultures.

Brexit contingency planning will persist, putting additional strain on finance functions.

Barring a complete reversal, regulatory changes will persist into next year and beyond 2020.

Change will be a constant for the foreseeable future.

Salaries throughout 2019, if demand remains undiminished, may be boosted by more bidding wars for the best talent. This should lead to a rise in premiums for accountants moving companies.

This is significant. In previous years, individuals have moved more for the long-term good of their career rather than any immediate salary uplift.

2019 may also see the best accountants benefit financially.

Accounting and Finance Salaries in Scotland

To access the salary information, please download a pdf copy of the Salary Guide.

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6. Legal Services

Andrew Inglis
Senior Business Manager – Legal
Contact Andrew

Market Commentary

Legal recruitment across private practice and industry in 2018 was dominated by continuing consolidation within the sector, the triple challenges of Brexit, regulation and technology, and a competition for talent across all levels.

The bulk of hiring activity in 2018 centred around replacing natural attrition rather than a staffing up in response to growth. This was despite partners and general counsels feeling under resourced.

Private Practice

M&A activity in Scotland in 2018 was a continuation of the trend of previous years.

Smaller firms were absorbed by mid-tier players, while larger practices were bought over by English and international companies. This brought challenges and opportunities.

Most deals were driven by a desire – certainly on the sale side – for either financial stability or an ageing partnership looking for an exit strategy.

Team Mobility

Changes in the market also occurred at a departmental level, with teams more mobile than in previous years. This was led by salaried partners moving firms on the promise of equity now or in the future.

Practices were adding new teams and bolstering new services for clients, particularly in the high value areas of corporate, banking and commercial real estate.

Weak pipeline

2018 was also characterised by a shortage of talent, with many teams under resourced – either due to maternity leave or client secondments. What was most concerning about this situation was the fact it stemmed from a lack of availability.

There appeared to be a dearth of solicitors coming through and a lack of trainees being taken on.

In many ways this is a legacy of the financial crisis; an issue which hasn’t been resolved.

Information technology and intellectual property (ITIP), corporate, financial services, real estate and banking were worst hit.


Brexit was not the biggest issue facing law firms and solicitors in 2018. Although clearly a focus, issues relating to regulation and technology took up more time.

GDPR was a huge focus throughout 2018 – as was continuing regulatory change across financial services. Firms who could support clients, digest large and complex information, and translate it into actionable plans were in high demand.

Technology, too, occupied solicitors. There was a huge drive among law firms to implement more efficient working practices.

Managing billing time more effectively and delivering work to clients in a digitally convenient manner saw firms engage with ‘Software As A Service’ providers.


This market experienced a lot of growth in 2018, predominantly across financial services where solicitors with commercial contract, asset management and pensions experience were in high demand.

Particularly sought after were solicitors with 1-to-6 years’ post-qualified experience, as corporates strived to reduce external legal spend by building up internal experience.

Also in demand were regulatory solicitors, especially those well-versed in GDPR and broader data protection. Fintech expertise was also coveted.

This all played out against a wider trend of senior associates within private practice seeking to move inhouse.

Many of these moves were driven by the realisation that partnership status was further out of reach than ever before, or that as sector consolidation limited new business opportunities, private practice as looking less appealing.

However, inhouse roles offered its own attractions. It was seen as being more varied, offering a role closer to the business, and providing better work-life balance.


There was some evidence of a slight upward movement in salaries in 2018.

If companies had a strong need to fill a position and the candidate was the right fit, money was made available to make an attractive offer. 12-20 per cent uplifts in high demand areas was not uncommon.

This was also borne out by a decline in successful counter offers in 2018.

Additionally, hiring organisations were more willing than in previous years to respond successfully to counter offers.

It should be noted, however, that emerging solicitors are less fixated on salary than their predecessors. The softer attractions of culture, work-life balance and corporate social responsibility carried equal weight in 2018.


Oil and gas should continue to pick up as oil prices nudge higher. There is growing positivity across the sector as investment grows in the North Sea basin. The decommissioning of existing fields will also bring further contractual work.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the legal sector in 2019 will be how it attracts and retains the best talent in what is an increasingly competitive market.

The cost to a firm of losing good solicitors can be huge. With strong candidates often sitting with multiple offers, employers need to be better at articulating and demonstrating the career path ahead.

Time and effort need to be invested in young, promising solicitors, demonstrating to them that they have a bright future in the company and that they are valued.

More than lip service must be paid to work-life balance and greater flexible working. Firms which adopt or address this will be more successful in attracting high-calibre candidates in 2019.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, businesses still continue to trade and mergers, acquisitions and management buyouts continue to take place.

Law work connected with immigration will obviously increase in 2019 and beyond as employers work through what they need to do to retain EU staff.

Sector consolidation will continue, with smaller firms being swallowed up by mid-to-large tier organisations. Further recognised brands will probably disappear in 2019.

We don’t anticipate salaries rising significantly in general terms, although areas in high demand should benefit – for example, ITIP, corporate, banking, commercial real estate, pensions, tax and financial services.

Whether in private practice or inhouse, talented lawyers with 1-to-7 years’ post-qualified experience will continue to do well in 2019.

Legal Salaries in Scotland

To access the salary information, please download a pdf copy of the Salary Guide.

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7. Interim, Temporary & Contract

Mike Stirton
Director – Interim, Temporary & Contract
Contact Mike

Market Commentary

In 2018 operating models – and the overhauling of them – was the major focus of temporary and contract recruitment across financial and professional services.

Risk frameworks were enhanced – or in some cases rebuilt – as businesses put adequate frameworks in place to manage operational risks appropriately.

As working practices changed, and proper governance structures were implemented, layers of inefficient processes were removed. In many cases, this dovetailed with further cost cutting.

With most businesses focused on realising their new operating models, 80% of roles were connected to how companies ran or intended to run their companies.

As a consequence, 2018 was a busy year for temporary and contract recruitment across specialist roles such as risk, audit, change and technology.

The market was no longer dominated by the traditional ‘bread and butter’ operational jobs. As companies modernised their working practices, new specialisms emerged in the market.

For example, a big theme was the further embracing of technology. A lot of projects were focused on upgrading systems as well as the risk processes surrounding them. This was all in the quest to make companies more efficient.

Areas of high demand were across roles which helped companies achieve this. In response, there was a reduction in high volume, heavy-lifting positions – such as reconciliation and transactional accounting – as back office functions became more automated.

Fintech & Change

The race towards full agile working continued across many financial services companies. Many businesses present themselves as fully agile, but the truth is organisations occupy different positions across the agile spectrum.

To support this, there was an increase in roles and more demand for jobs with niche skill sets related to project management, business analysis, IT applications and all things agile.

The specialist nature of these roles meant that day rates increased as a result.

Core Business Functions (Financial Services)

Operational improvements and the steady march towards automation meant a reduction in the demand for administrative and processing roles across traditional back office functions.

This was in step with a general shift from large transactional work towards more ‘cerebral’ middle office roles – for example, performance, product development, risk and compliance.

Indeed, the majority of back office temporary and contract recruitment in 2018 tended to be connected with replacing natural attrition rather than growth. This was particularly pronounced within the likes of investment administration and trade settlements.

The growing specialist nature of IT and change meant there were fewer instances of high performing contractors progressing upwards within core business functions.

Accounting and Finance

With businesses focused on improving their operating models in 2018, audit and risk contractors were in huge demand – both in counting the cost of transformation and ensuring there were adequate operating frameworks in place.

This corporate focus also meant that employers were more prepared in previous years to pay what was required to get the right skills and experience. Although this uptick in day rates was reserved for only the very best talent.

Interestingly, employers also seemed more willing to be patient to secure this expertise, even if it meant waiting for three-month notice periods to play out before it could be brought on board.

Business Support

Interim, temporary and contract recruitment across business support roles remained steady in 2018.

Activity tended to focus on positions which supported areas of transformation such as PMO rather than business-as-usual roles such as HR, sales and marketing.

Most significantly, some entry level roles saw rates rise by as much as 20 per cent in 2018. Areas such as customer services, personal administration and general administration all benefited.

Rises were due to employers finally recognising that if they were to attract candidates to certain roles, day rates would need to increase to reflect the burgeoning cost of living in a major city such as Edinburgh.


2019 will see the continued rise of the specialist within temporary and contract recruitment, with specialists being rewarded and generalists losing out.

Generalists will continue to see limited opportunities. Although rates remain strong here, the opportunity for upward mobility in the market has diminished. 2019 will lead to depressed rates for generalists.

In previous years, employers have been content to look to generalists based locally in the Scottish market. But as projects and roles become more sophisticated companies will be compelled to expand their search to London or overseas.

Some of these skills are highly coveted. As a result rates will continue to rise in order for employers to compete for talent internationally.

The continuing decline of the generalist in 2019 will also mean that companies will find it harder to respond quickly to peaks and troughs in business activity – a key role of temporary and contract recruitment in the past.

2018 was about companies getting their houses in order and their operational ‘ducks in a row’. 2019 should see an increase in client facing, sales and marketing activity – and a corresponding increase in temporary and contract recruitment to support it.

We cannot ignore the fact there will likely be more regulatory and operational change to come from Brexit’s fallout. Project professionals will continue to be in high demand. Change will remain a constant.

Interim, Temporary and Contract Day Rates in Scotland

To access the salary information, please download a pdf copy of the Salary Guide.

Download our Salary Guide 2019

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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 2019, 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 2018, 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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