Currency Traders Get Respite From Job Cuts as Revenue SinksBy
Currency traders are finally catching a break after six years of job cuts thinned the ranks at the world’s biggest investment banks.
Headcount rose 1.2 percent last year for front-office staff covering Group-of-10 foreign exchange, including sales and trading personnel, the first increase since at least 2010, according to Coalition Development Ltd. The gain was recorded even as revenues in those divisions plunged 21 percent, according to the provider of research and analytics for the financial industry.
“Margins have dropped off, but banks are not cutting any more headcount,” said Amrit Shahani, research director at Coalition in London. “You can’t operate in the markets without providing a full-service FX business.”
There were 2,467 front-office employees on Group-of-10 currency desks last year, the data showed. That’s up from 2,438 in 2016, but still reflects a decline of 30 percent since 2010. Revenues sank to $7.1 billion last year from $9 billion a year earlier. FX options markets were a particular laggard, Shahani said.
The 12 banks in Coalition’s analysis included: Bank of America Corp., Barclays Plc, BNP Paribas SA, Citigroup Inc., Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., HSBC Holdings Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, Societe Generale SA and UBS Group AG.
“Banks are as lean as they can be now,” said Kevin McPartland, head of research for market structure and technology at Greenwich Associates.
Dealers have slashed foreign-exchange jobs in recent years amid automation and stricter regulation, but the current staffing levels could represent a trough, Shahani said. Market makers still need to maintain operations across all FX products in order to keep key customers, including large asset managers and hedge funds, he said.
Banks are saying “we have to keep the lights on,” Shahani said.