The number of new financial services jobs in London rose for the first time in almost two years last month, research showed on Monday, which recruiters said was a sign that banks are starting to think about growth after years of restructuring. However, the number of jobs created in all of last year fell 21 per cent compared with the year before as the financial jobs market still struggles to recover from the effects of the financial crisis, after which some banks cut jobs or pulled back from certain activities to reduce costs. Last month, 1,340 new jobs were created in the City financial district, up by two-thirds versus the same month in 2012, according to research by recruitment firm Astbury Marsden. It was the first time in 22 months there had been a year-on-year monthly increase, the study said. Investment banks created 67 per cent more jobs than in December 2012. Astbury Marsden said steady trading volumes encouraged City firms to continue to support growth in equity and derivatives trading, and a buoyant share listings market encouraged banks to devote more resources to deal-making and execution teams. The total number of roles created last year fell to 27,915 from 35,115 created in 2012, the research showed. Astbury Marsden said there were some positives to be taken from the fact that the rate of shrinkage had slowed, however, as total new roles in 2012 had been 35 per cent behind 2011. “What we are seeing is very far from a return to aggressive hiring, but it is a good sign that banks are thinking again about growth,” Astbury Marsden chief operating officer Mark Cameron said. What we are seeing is very far from a return to aggressive hiring, but it is a good sign that banks are thinking again about growth Mark Cameron, Astbury Marsden Separate research released last week suggested financial services institutions are finding it increasingly difficult to find the right staff to fill roles and to keep top talent on board. In a survey conducted as part of recruitment firm Robert Half’s Salary Guide for this year, almost all of the 100 executives asked said it was a challenge to find skilled financial services professionals and 95 per cent said they were concerned about losing top performers. A similar number said they were worried about losing top talent to international competitors as a result of the European Union bonus cap, which limits bonuses to no more than annual salary, or twice that with shareholder approval. Bonuses and executive compensation are particularly thorny issues in Britain, where many believe high levels of pay encouraged the excessive risk taking that led to the financial crisis. People struggling in the economic downturn have been infuriated by companies, particularly banks rescued by the government at the height of the crisis, which continue to award payouts many times the average wage. Robert Half said almost two-thirds of firms surveyed had already raised salaries by an average of 19 per cent for top employees to counteract the crimp on bonuses, while six in 10 have also increased benefits for affected staff. In November, Barclays unveiled a plan to give senior bankers additional monthly payments, and last week an industry source said HSBC is considering handing out new share awards to about 1,000 top-ranking staff. Many US and European banks still have a long way to go to ensure their bonus awards for London-based bankers comply with the cap. Some bonuses awarded for 2012 performance were 5.4 times salary, according to data disclosed by the banks and Reuters calculations.