More job cuts loom for financial firms

As weak global growth hits profits, firms are under increasing pressure to manage costs

ANZ says it has almost 1,900 staff working in Singapore, down from about 2,200 a year ago, but the reduction was largely achieved through natural attrition.
ANZ says it has almost 1,900 staff working in Singapore, down from about 2,200 a year ago, but the reduction was largely achieved through natural attrition.ST PHOTO: DON CHI

Job cuts, retrenchment and attrition are the words to look out for when it comes to financial institutions these days.

There have been savage staff cutbacks across the industry in recent months, with Tudor Investment, a hedge fund founded by billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, the latest to wield the axe, with news that it has closed its Singapore trading desk as part of a global shake-up, said Bloomberg.

The firm still has staff here focusing on quantitative research and continues to hire for that area, but it is not known how many people it has working here now.

Bloomberg said yesterday that Tudor had employed about 10 people in Singapore before the desk closure, adding that it had cut jobs last month after clients pulled out more than US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion) this year on the back of lacklustre returns. The cuts were reportedly focused on money managers who had posted losses or failed to post a profit.

ANZ Banking Group, which is known to be reviewing its retail and wealth businesses in Asia, has trimmed its staff numbers here.

An ANZ Banking spokesman said yesterday: "We currently have almost 1,900 staff working in Singapore, down from about 2,200 12 months ago. The majority of the reduction has been achieved through natural attrition - not replacing roles as people leave."

The bank did not provide details of the specific roles or businesses affected.

ANZ added that Singapore is one of its key business hubs in Asia, and that its presence here is a central part of its institutional banking strategy in Asia, but it added that it has "a strong focus on simplification and productivity in every area of its business".

This could imply even leaner operations in future.

The ANZ spokesman noted: "We reported group full-time equivalent staff at our half-year result - six months ended March 31, 2016 - of 48,896, down 2,347 year-on-year."

Investment banking giant Goldman Sachs is also cutting almost 30 per cent of 300 investment banking jobs in Asia outside Japan.

Most of the cuts are likely to happen in Hong Kong, Singapore and China, where its main Asian offices are, said Reuters.

Goldman Sachs said yesterday that it does not have any comment on that story or market rumours.

CIMB Private Banking economist Song Seng Wun said: "Job cutting from different financial institutions has been occurring intermittently, but with regularity, over the years, and will continue unless we see global activity picking up pace."

He noted that it has been difficult for financial institutions to make profits as expanding revenue becomes increasingly tough, especially given low interest rates and higher regulatory costs.

The only way is to cut and manage costs, he said, and even local financial institutions are not spared from the same challenges.

"On the plus side, for the three local banks, they are smaller and their core business is within Asia.

"Although it is slower, Asian growth is still higher than global growth," noted Mr Song.

"The local banks may also have a smaller or lower cost base, but it is just as difficult to make money from the fee side as well.

"The pressure for local and regional banks is there as they are still answerable to shareholders."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2016, with the headline 'More job cuts loom for financial firms'. Subscribe