Why Europe’s biggest investment banks are cutting costs a year after Wall Street rivals

The biggest Wall Street banks cut 30,000 jobs last year, kicked off by Goldman Sachs who informed its staff of plans to make its deepest reductions since the 2008 financial crisis shortly after Christmas 2022.

Goldman’s 3,200 job cuts were swiftly followed by 3,500 at Morgan Stanley, and then 5,000 at Citigroup. Bank of America refrained from deep redundancies, but 4,000 employees departed regardless through its ‘natural attrition’ approach last year.

With the exception of Credit Suisse, which started cutting thousands of roles before being acquired by its biggest rival UBS in March, European banks refrained from deep redundancies last year.

Times have changed.

Whether it’s an attempt to revive a flagging share price, free up funds for buybacks, the march of technology, strategic overhauls or simply reining in costs, top European banks are cutting jobs and reducing bonuses for those that remain.

READ ‘Doughnuts’ loom: Bankers brace for brutal bonus season

“It’s a balancing act for a lot of European banks, particularly after two years of poor performance for investment banking. There’s only so long you can keep paying expensive talent in the hope that revenue will recover,” said Gary Greenwood, a bank analyst at Shore Capital.

Barclays is expected to unveil a strategic overhaul alongside its annual results on 20 February, with the UK lender looking to save £1.25bn in costs. So far, job cuts have mainly hit support functions. Deutsche Bank said that 3,500 jobs will go over the next year, largely in back office functions, as it looks to save €2.5bn after headcount swelled 6% in 2023.

Societe Generale is cutting 900 jobs within its Paris headquarters as part of new CEO Slawomir Krupa’s plans to pull back on costs, while UBS has earmarked around $6.5bn in employee expenses to be stripped out as it integrates Credit Suisse.

On a smaller scale, Rothschild cut around 10 investment banking jobs in January, with former Goldman dealmaker John Brennan departing.

“The US banks are much more reactive in terms of cutting headcount than their European counterparts,” said Stephane Rambosson, co-founder of headhunters Vici Advisory. “European banks are now focused on costs, but each case is specific to their circumstances rather than market conditions. Wall Street banks are also quicker to hire again when the tide turns.”

As well as job cuts, bankers are enduring another brutal bonus round. There is widespread disgruntlement at UBS as the bank spread an already small pool around its existing employees, the influx of Credit Suisse staff and a flurry of senior Barclays dealmakers brought in last year on guarantees, according to bankers.

Barclays has handed zero bonuses to up to a third of dealmakers in some units, bankers told Financial News, with Bloomberg previously reporting that “dozens” of employees were set for doughnuts this year. Deutsche Bank, which also has to digest an expensive hiring spree and its £410m acquisition of City broker Numis, is also set to reduce bonus payments.

READ Investment banks face talent crunch even after deep job cuts

“We have observed a similar, but even more aggressive, trend with the European banks regarding layoffs and bonus pool reductions,” said Chris Connors of Wall Street compensation consultants Johnson Associates. “The European banks have struggled to keep pace with their American counterparts on business results and compensation. From the employee perspective, we anticipate European bankers to be similarly disappointed to US bankers given the muted results in advisory and other units such as underwriting, which are still well below 2021 levels.”

While US banks cut dozens of dealmakers last year, some European players took advantage of the dislocation. Deutsche hired 50 senior bankers, while Santander picked up dealmakers from both the fallout from Credit Suisse’s takeover and from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

Most cuts so far at European banks have focused on management or back office functions, and there’s little suggestion that deep investment banker redundancies are on the cards, particularly as banks prepare for a revival in dealmaking activity after a near two-year lull. However, headhunters told FN that many banks were taking a much more cautious approach about bringing in senior talent.

During its fourth quarter earnings call, Deutsche Bank chief executive, Christian Sewing said that the bank had “positioned ourselves for a recovery in origination and advisory” after its hiring spree. “Now, this is where we see considerable growth potential,” he added.

“Investment banking is a people business, so banks will be reluctant to let too much talent depart,” added Greenwood. “This could change — a recovery is possible, but there are still a lot of risks in the market.”

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Paul Clarke

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button


Get our latest downloads and information first. Complete the form below to subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

100% secure your website.