“Some of our core clients are saying ‘we’re going to review our position’ and a few have put freezes on,” confirmed Rupert Stuart-Baker, owner of recruitment consultant Beach Baker.

“They’re saying it’s for the next few weeks until they find out what the situation is. I think it’s line managers getting a bit nervous and saying ‘hang on, I need to speak to my boss and work out if that’s going ahead’.”

Another senior consultant told Property Week: “I wouldn’t even bother sending investment CVs to any agency, particularly not the big guys. Every single one I have spoken to has said that deal volumes are down through the floor, and nothing is happening.”

Christopher Mackenzie, UK managing director of recruitment consultancy Cobalt, added: “The first thing everyone says is ‘business as usual’, and then they say ‘well actually, on the transaction roles we’ll probably put things on hold’.”

Industry sources confirmed that hiring decisions in areas such as commercial investment and residential development were being put on hold. A senior source at a top-five firm said: “Why would you hire when you don’t know what the weather’s going to be?”

Some likened the current hiatus in the investment market to a tropical storm that could soon pass. However, others warned that if it did not, lay-offs were likely.

Excuse to get rid of “excess fat”

Another senior agency source conceded that his firm would “inevitably” make redundancies if the market failed to pick up by the end of the year. Firms would also use Brexit as an excuse to get rid of “excess fat” that had built up over the past few years, the source predicted.

While there has been a fall-off in hiring in investment, recruitment consultants reported that recruitment remained strong in areas such as leasing, property management and facilities management.

One claimed that recruitment for commercial investment roles “had stopped dead in its tracks” and weakened in other areas such as fund management and real estate finance, but that his firm had enjoyed one of its best weeks this year after the Brexit vote thanks to high demand for staff in areas less exposed to the transactional market. Recruiters stressed the freeze could be temporary and one described it as “more of a pause” than a freeze. Savills, JLL, CBRE, Cushman & Wakefield (C&W) and Knight Frank claimed they had not frozen recruitment.

Ciaran Bird, UK managing director at CBRE said: “We continue to ensure that we have the appropriate levels of staffing and top talent in our teams in order to provide the best possible service and advice to our clients.”

C&W’s head of UK & Ireland Colin Wilson cited a clutch of senior hires made ahead of the vote as a sign it was still growing. “We remain focused on continuing to grow our new platform,” he added.

A JLL spokeswoman said: “We have not frozen recruitment. There are currently five advertised vacancies in London and many hundreds across the rest of our 280 offices globally.”


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