IT contractor prospects have been given a huge boost following the news that confidence in the UK financial sector is at a 17-year high. The latest Confederation of British Industry (CBI) PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Financial Services Survey also shows that the sector is planning to go on a hiring spree over the next quarter.If you have held your nerve and remained in the financial IT sector since the less positive news from other surveys over the summer, then now is the time for you reap the rewards.The sector has added 10,000 to its headcount over the last quarter to September 2013, with a further 2,000 predicted to join between now and Christmas. This means greater numbers of contractors will be needed to support this employment surge.

But it would pay for you to be selective in your targeting. Although the CBI/PwC report shows confidence rising, not all sectors are recovering at the same rate. In fact, one or two are going backwards; for example, business volumes actually fell in the banking sector.

Other sectors performing less well include securities trading and investment management. Growth has been flat for finance houses, but the subsector is anticipating growth and “investment in IT is expected to strengthen in the year ahead”.Despite this ‘blip’, as PwC’s UK financial services leader Kevin Burrowes describes it, the future look encouraging. “Activity and profitability are expected to grow as the economy recovers, and investment in new products and infrastructure is increasing,” says Burrowes.Furthermore, according to the report “firms expect to spend more on IT, with around two fifths of them saying they would increase spending to combat cybercrime”. This investment in IT is predicted to last at least 12 months, as many financial institutions make up for their relative underinvestment in IT over the last five years.

Survey respondents also fear that increasing levels of regulation will hold back growth, and this fear has been growing over the quarter. That should indirectly lead to further investment in IT, as compliance increasingly depends on IT systems.

On balance, with total employee numbers expected to reach 1.14m by the end of 2013, the UK’s financial sector is starting to look a little like its old self. The good news is also that this is translating into jobs and contracts. We’ve certainly noticed a general increase in activity around Canary Wharf in London’s Docklands, where we are headquartered.

Are you returning to financial IT contracting after time on the bench, or switching from a permanent role to a better remunerated contract? Then we’d love to hear from you, and to help you kickstart your contracting career with our specialist tax and accountancy advice for contractors.