Bad time to be a banker: More layoffs

The cuts are part of HSBC’s plans to eliminate 30,000 positions worldwide.

HSBC employees won’t be alone hitting the bricks with resumes in hand. This week, the Charlotte Observer – the hometown paper for Bank of America – wrote the largest bank in the U.S. plans to shed between 25,000 and 30,000 jobs.

Last week, Dutch bank ABN Amro said it will cut 2,350 jobs. In Stockholm, Nordea, the largest bank in the Nordic region, plans to cut 2,000 workers.  The week before Swiss bank UBS announced 3,500 job cuts.

Other layoffs reported in recent months:


Lloyds TSB – 15,000 jobs

Barclays PLC – 3000 jobs

Credit Suisse –  2000 jobs

RBS – 2000 jobs

Wells Fargo & Co. – 1,900 jobs

Bank of New York Mellon –  1,500 jobs

Goldman Sachs –  1000 jobs

Why? As stock prices sink, banks are looking for ways to boost their bottom lines – and nothing is faster than cutting staff. Employees represent around 60% of a bank’s expenses, and a payroll cut is instant money left in the banks.

The spiraling debt problems in Europe have global investors worried about the economic health of banks there; Swiss banks like UBS and Credit Suisse were pummeled by the strong Swiss franc. Fears are profound that a euro contagion could jump the Atlantic, and all are jittery about a double-dip recession.

Another reason, as Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times pointed out: Reduction of those banker bonuses that caused such uproar in the wake of the financial crisis. Instead, banks have increased salaries to compensate, Sorkin explains. But unlike bonuses, which could be adjusted based on a bank’s financial performance, salaries are a fixed cost.

So rather than axe bonuses, banks are axing bankers.


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