Societe Generale SA (GLE), the second- biggest French bank, is eliminating at least 200 U.S. jobs in investment and corporate banking as Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis persists, people familiar with the matter said.
Naseem Haffar, hired as U.S. head of loan sales and trading in March 2010, and New York-based senior credit traders Joseph Finnern and Zachary Chavis were among those dismissed, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is private. Cuts may amount to 10 percent to 20 percent of the 2,000 workers in the firm’s U.S. corporate and investment bank.
Societe Generale Chief Executive Officer Frederic Oudea, 48, is selling assets and paring costs to reassure investors that the Paris-based lender can cope with the debt crisis. The bank plans to cut about 2,000 jobs next year at its Russian retail-banking business and aims to free up 4 billion euros ($5.4 billion) in capital by 2013 through asset sales, the company said in September.
“The bank is going through some changes right now because of the European situation and as part of that they are cutting down on some businesses,” Haffar, 54, said in a telephone interview. “I feel frustrated because I built a very good team and it just feels that the bank should look in the long run as opposed to the short run.”
Credit trader Clement Gueugnier and telecom and media strategist Robert Jaeger also have been fired, the people said. Strategist Michael Reiner was dismissed in June.
Aside from Haffar, the fired employees said they couldn’t comment or didn’t reply to phone messages seeking comment.
Societe Generale fell 3.2 percent to 17.50 euros in Paris today and has dropped 56 percent this year amid speculation that European lenders may struggle to maintain funding as governments grapple with their debts.
“As announced in September, Societe Generale is in the process of scaling down a certain number of corporate- and investment-banking businesses adversely affected by regulation, structural changes or with low cross-selling potential,” James Galvin, a New York-based spokesman for the company, said in an e-mailed statement. “Therefore, the bank is adjusting its international setup accordingly.”
Financial firms worldwide have cut more than 200,000 jobs this year, compared with about 58,000 last year and 174,000 in 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Societe Generale, which is reducing corporate- and investment-banking costs by 5 percent, and larger French rival BNP Paribas SA aim to shrink their balance sheets after U.S. money-market funds became reluctant to lend dollars to European banks, narrowing options to refinance international operations.
Societe Generale is trimming businesses such as aircraft financing, shipping, leveraged finance and commercial real- estate financing in the U.S., the company said Sept. 12.
Haffar, previously a managing director in credit sales at New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co., was hired by Societe Generale as the bank sought to expand its U.S. loan sales and trading business.
“I have some very good relationships in the market which I can still use to generate business,” Haffar said. “I still have a few years left in this business so I still have a lot to contribute.”
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