UBS AG’s decision to cut 5 percent of its workforce brings to more than 40,000 the number of jobs cut by European banks in the past month as the region’s worsening sovereign debt crisis crimps trading revenue.
UBS, Switzerland’s biggest bank, said yesterday it will eliminate 3,500 jobs, mainly from its investment bank. It follows HSBC Holdings Plc, which announced 30,000 cuts on Aug. 1, Barclays Plc, which is cutting headcount by 3,000, and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, which is eliminating 2,000 posts. Credit Suisse Group AG announced 2,000 reductions on July 28.
European banks are slashing jobs this year six times faster than their U.S. peers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, as concerns about the creditworthiness of Italy, Spain and France roil financial markets and reduce income from fixed-income trading, stock and bond underwriting as well as mergers and acquisitions. Financial firms are also cutting costs as regulators force banks to hold more and better quality capital to withstand future shocks.
“It’s a bloodbath, and I expect things to get worse before they get better,” said Jonathan Evans, chairman of executive-search firm Sammons Associates in London. “I cannot see a lot of those who have lost their jobs getting re-employed. Regardless of how good someone is, no one wants to talk about hiring. Life will be very difficult for two or three years.”
The 46-member Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index has fallen 31 percent this year. RBS tumbled 47 percent, Barclays 45 percent and France’s Societe Generale SA 48 percent.
Credit Suisse and UBS both reported a 71 percent drop in investment-banking earnings in the second quarter. Revenue at Edinburgh-based RBS’s securities unit dropped 35 percent in the period, while London-based Barclays Capital posted a 27 percent decline in pretax profit.
“Some job cuts will be done by all banks” with investment banking units, said Stefano Girola, a fund manager at Albertini Syz & Co. in Milan, who helps manage about 3 billion euros ($4.3 billion). “Business volumes are poor, especially in equity and corporate bonds divisions.”
European banks are cutting jobs at the fastest rate since the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008, eliminating about 67,000 roles so far this year, according to Bloomberg data. U.K. banks account for about 50,000 of those reductions. U.S. lenders announced about 10,500 cuts in the same period, the data show.
‘Far Fewer Bankers’
A lot of the cuts are likely to be permanent, according to Stephane Rambosson, managing partner at executive search firm Veni Partners in London.
“Returns will continue to fall and costs on revenue have just exploded,” Rambosson said. “Somehow banks have to make the equation work. In the long term, there will be far fewer bankers than there were.”
Banks will be forced to continue to cut costs as they struggle to increase revenue amid tougher regulation, according to an Aug. 17 report by KPMG LLP.
The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision will require lenders to more than triple the core reserves they must hold to protect themselves from insolvency by 2019. Under Basel III, banks will be obliged to hold core Tier 1 capital equivalent to 7 percent of their risk-weighted assets, compared with 2 percent under the previous international rules.
“We’re looking at a fundamental restructuring of banking,” said David Sayer, global head of retail banking at KPMG in London. “Banks have to hold far more capital and more of it in liquidity, which doesn’t generate a return. This means the cost of doing business is higher, leading banks to think about where they’ll make money and pulling out of countries and areas where they won’t.”
UniCredit SpA this week lowered its growth forecasts for the 17-nation euro region for this year and next. The euro area will expand 1.7 percent this year and 1 percent in 2012, Unicredit chief euro zone economist Marco Valli said in a note yesterday. That compares with a previous prediction of 2.1 percent growth in 2011 and 1.7 percent in 2012.
“The banking industry overall is clearly re-shaping its cost base,” said Andrew Gray, banking leader at accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in London. “We may well see some further losses of jobs over the course of the second half of 2011. Exactly where is impossible to say, but we will see some further cuts from other institutions.”