RBS axing S'pore jobs in overhaul of operations

RBS is relinquishing its two floors of office space at One George Street and is looking for sub-tenants for one of the two floors it occupies at One Raffles Quay, according to market talk.
RBS is relinquishing its two floors of office space at One George Street and is looking for sub-tenants for one of the two floors it occupies at One Raffles Quay, according to market talk.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Move is part of larger trend of cuts at global banks here as regional outlook weakens

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is believed to be cutting several hundred jobs in Singapore as the bank scales back its presence here to trading and sales operations only.

Its other business lines here include transaction banking - such as trade finance and cash management - corporate banking and debt capital markets.

RBS is relinquishing its two floors of office space at One George Street and is looking for sub-tenants for one of the two floors it occupies at One Raffles Quay, according to market talk.

The bank, which employs about 1,500 staff here, has not confirmed the number of job cuts but acknowledges that some jobs will go. It is "exploring options for the exit of our operations in a number of countries", a spokesman said.

This is part of a larger trend of job cuts at global banks here, in both the front and back offices, recruitment professionals say.

MAJOR IMPACT

"The changes we are making will inevitably have a significant impact on jobs."

AN RBS SPOKESMAN, on reducing its Asia-Pacific presence

In the Asia-Pacific, RBS plans to reduce its presence to a trading and sales operation in Singapore and a sales operation in Japan.

"The changes we are making will inevitably have a significant impact on jobs," the spokesman said.

These changes are in line with its strategy to make RBS "a stronger, simpler, more sustainable business, more aligned to the needs of our customers in the United Kingdom and Western Europe", she added.

Media reports in March said RBS may cut as many as 14,000 investment banking jobs, mostly in the United States and Asia.

The bank yesterday posted a first-half loss of £153 million (S$327 million) and is facing investigation and other regulatory action by the authorities in Britain, Europe, the US and other jurisdictions.

Global banks have been scaling back on investment banking jobs as well as taking offshore roles in operations and finance, said Ms Orelia Chan, manager in financial services at Robert Walters Singapore.

"Jobs being offshored are mostly in the mid to back office, and do not require too much client facing or high-level checking," she said.

Global banks with a presence here are cutting jobs as the regional outlook for banking weakens, said Mr Kenneth Ng, CIMB head of equity research for Singapore.

"In the past 12 months, Asean has had some challenges with commodity prices down, currencies falling and government and household balance sheets in the focus. Demand and investment flows have slowed," he said.

Global banks are also up against local banks that enjoy economies of scale, while Malaysian banks are expanding rapidly here.

"It is tougher to compete with a small or mid-sized presence in Singapore," said Mr Eugene Tarzimanov, Moody's vice-president and senior credit officer.

Jobs are believed to have been slashed in the oil and gas sector too.

Italian oil services firm Saipem and the world's top oil field services provider Schlumberger are understood to have trimmed staff.

Schlumberger has already cut its workforce by about 20,000 worldwide. "The abruptness of the fall in exploration and production activity has made sound management of our resources challenging, including the difficult decision to reduce the size of our exceptional workforce," a company spokesman said.

Job cuts are expected as well at oil and gas industry equipment giant FMC Technologies from the United States. It announced plans to cut 2,000 employees in February, and its executive vice-president and chief financial officer said last week that further cuts are coming.

With the price of oil making many projects unviable, companies have reduced manpower and are surviving with minimum staff on existing projects, said Ms Christine Wright, managing director of Hays in Asia.

"The worst hit has been the upstream market with exploration work slowing to a virtual stop."

On the plus side, energy prices have appeared to stabilise, which should help companies in the sector determine headcount requirements, said CIMB private banking economist Song Seng Wun.

But volatility remains in the financial markets, he noted.

"Unless we see a major change in outlook, hiring in many of these industries will remain extremely selective," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2015, with the headline 'RBS axing S'pore jobs in overhaul of operations'. Print Edition | Subscribe