City hiring in 2011 is unlikely to reach the heights of last year when banks snapped up staff in a fight for market share, Robert Walters, the white collar recruitment firm, said on Wednesday.

“Last year was an unrepeatable correction,” Robert Walters, chief executive of the eponymous firm, said. “Banks had made savage cuts during the financial crisis and they needed to replenish staff quickly. But that was a one-off. Now we’ll have to wait and see.”

The City recruitment agency, which counts bankers, brokers and exchanges among its clients, said there were signs that the hiring process may take longer as employees grapple with complex variations in pay packages.

“It looks like there will be movement but it may be delayed. Everyone is confused about what their worth is; people just aren’t sure whether the deal they are being offered is a good one because it is harder to compare,” said Mr Walters. “The uncertainty means people are taking longer to make decisions at more senior levels.”

The hiring agency, which placed 2,000 City workers in jobs last year, said net fee income in the UK, which accounts for around 30 per cent of business, rose 10 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

Hays, Michael Page, Robert Walters and SThree – the four largest listed recruiters – have all reported buoyant demand for financial staff, particularly in risk management and regulatory functions.

But much of the increase is due to churn – people changing employers – rather than a large number of new jobs being created. Many analysts expect banks to reduce headcount by 5-8 per cent this year.

The upturn in financial services sector activity helped Robert Walters report a 23 per cent rise worldwide in net income in the first quarter, boosted by growth in Asia Pacific and Europe.

The shares rose 3.49 per cent to 318.50p.

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