KOLKATA/MUMBAI: Recruitment across India’s non-banking finance companies has slowed to a crawl, with hiring practically at a standstill other than for critical roles.
And, despite the government throwing the sector a lifeline in the recent budget, it is unlikely that hiring will pick up at least for the next three to six months, say head hunters and industry insiders.
Senior executives were making a beeline to sign up for NBFCs with the sector growing at a scorching pace until a little over a year ago. Many of them are now looking for an exit into “safer” sectors, or into big, well-capitalised NBFCs. In the process, many have given up on hefty stock options, effectively taking a big hit on compensation.
“(Developments at) Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services and Dewan Housing Finance affected market sentiment to a large extent. There was a party going on and they were the party poopers,” said Reet Bhambhani, a partner at EMA Partners Executive Search.
The country’s shadow banking sector has been reeling from a liquidity crunch and crisis of confidence, leading to numerous licence cancellations by the central bank. Layoffs could be the next step, particularly at some of the small firms that were hit harder than others by the developments, fear industry insiders.
According to head hunters, the liquidity crunch has hit even the most prudently run organisations. Recruitment at even the big players has dropped, with senior-level mandates down by more than 50%.
Senior talent that has moved out has gone to banks, fintech companies or stable NBFCs with deep pockets. Many from small organisations have compromised on stock options. “Many of those options have not vested yet, and there’s no one willing to buy them out at this stage,” said Bhambhani.
Kamal Karanth, cofounder of staffing firm Xpheno, said at the top 30 NBFC companies, the average headcount remained flat in the past six months, compared with an increase of 15-20% in the first half of 2018. “Several companies put hiring plans on hold as they had to conserve capital amid tightening liquidity,” added Karanth.
Anshul Lodha, the regional director at Michael Page, said compared with the first half last year, when NBFCs were the most aggressive recruiters in financial services, the tide has completely turned this year where the sector has largely rolled back plans to hire at the mid and senior levels.
“There was a surge in people wanting to come in; now there is a surge in people wanting to get out. A lot of senior guys are asking questions about wider career opportunities outside the sector,” said Lodha.
The NBFC take
Companies say they’re playing it safe.
Capri Global Capital, for instance, is focusing on consolidation and optimisation and has put some previously planned hiring on a freeze.
“Hiring has not stopped but it’s replacement hiring for critical positions. We are also hiring in tech, collections and business process re-engineering as we feel that by investing now, we will be able to support growth when things improve,” said its HR head, Divya Sutar.
Hiring now is happening primarily in roles in sales, technology, analytics and compliance. A handful of NBFCs are using the opportunity to get in good talent from other firms.
“We are looking at adding people, for both regular requirements and for expansion opportunities that we envisage. Based on emerging opportunities, we would look at deploying our current talent pool as required, as well as hiring or partnering with external resources,” said Ramesh Iyer, the vice chairman and managing director at Mahindra Finance.
There is hope that the budget proposals will signal a turnaround for the sector. KV Srinivasan, a director at Profectus Capital, said the liquidity situation is expected to improve with the strong message from the government in the budget and later the notification of the Reserve Bank of India on opening a liquidity window for the sector.
“So far, not much hiring was happening in the sector other than replacements. But it will start picking up in the months ahead. For us, hiring will be on track,” said Srinivasan.