The past decade has been fairly turbulent for the UK's financial services sector. The economic recession of the late 2000s saw a significant number of jobs lost, leading many workers to opt to set up on their own, offering their services as limited company contractors on a freelance basis.
Then, several years later, as the economy was steadily getting back on its feet, the EU referendum came along, with British voters choosing to leave Europe, creating further turmoil for the financial services industry.
Yet the sector is still one of the biggest players in terms of consistent jobs growth and new opportunities for limited company contractors, with this looking set to continue to be the case throughout 2017.
So what exactly do financial services contractors need to be aware of as the new year gets underway?
1. Demand highest for mid to back-office positions
Workers considering giving up a full-time permanent position to go it alone in the financial services sector should bear in mind that contractors are most often utilised for mid to back-office positions, such as risk management, legal operations, compliance and change management.
Therefore, if your current job is in a different discipline within the industry, it is advisable to gain experience in one of these coveted areas before taking the leap and becoming a limited company contractor.
Individuals with risk and change management expertise are likely to be in even higher demand as the UK government's triggering of Article 50 and the official start of the Brexit process draws closer, so it would be advisable for all financial services workers to take the time to upskill themselves in these areas.
2. Brexit approach creating opportunities
It is believed that the government will trigger Article 50 by the end of March this year, after which time the UK jobs market may undergo some disruption. But, in the meantime, the approach of Brexit has been creating opportunities for contractors, particularly in the financial services sector, as businesses look to get their affairs in order before Britain formally leaves the EU.
Statistics published by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) back in September showed that the number of vacancies for financial services contractors had increased by 16 per cent between July and August 2016 alone in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum result.
At the time, chief executive of APSCo Ann Swain commented: "While market sentiment remains volatile, an increasing number of economic indicators suggest that the UK economy is largely unfazed by Brexit."
However, it will not be until Article 50 has been triggered that the full impact of Brexit on hiring activity in the financial services sector will be seen, so it is important for contractors to be taking advantage of any available opportunities while they can.
3. Cyber security contractors also in high demand
It is not just contractors who specialise in risk management, compliance and accountancy that are in demand in financial services, as cyber security experts are also becoming increasingly coveted among UK organisations.
Cyber security is growing in importance across all industries, but it is arguably most important where technology meets the management and safe-keeping of money. As a result, contractors with knowledge of the latest developments in the 'fintech' space are in particularly high demand and can expect this trend to continue throughout the coming 12 months.
This issue is also all the more pressing given the approach of the official Brexit process, as organisations strive to make sure they are in the most secure, compliant and financially-sound position in order to navigate their way through the potentially uncertain post-Brexit era.