HSBC adds to sweeping bank job cuts in Europe

Features Reuters

By Sarah White and Steve Slater

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LONDON (Reuters) - HSBC Holdings Plc <HSBA.L> is poised to chop about 700 jobs in its UK retail bank arm, as staff cuts begin in earnest at banks across Europe battling a limp economic recovery, trading woes and tougher regulation.

The fresh round of layoffs, affecting Switzerland's Credit Suisse Group AG <CSGN.VX> and Italy's Banco Popolare <BAPO.MI> among others, is hitting investment banking divisions and branch networks after months of mounting scrutiny on costs.

"All this reflects how tough conditions continue to be in the sector and the Q2 (second quarter) reporting season may not likely make for good reading," Mediobanca said in a note.

A tough second quarter for investment banking earnings, dragged down by sovereign debt woes in Europe and trading jitters, is prompting many to cut back in areas where revenue has not come up to scratch.

Retail banking is equally vulnerable, and the job reductions at HSBC will mainly affect branch offices, people close to the matter said. About 460 financial advisory positions are set to go across its UK branches, one of the people said.

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The redundancies will add to 15,000 jobs set to go at Britain's part-nationalized Lloyds Banking Group Plc <LLOY.L> after new boss Antonio Horta-Osorio unveiled a strategy overhaul.

This latest round comes on top of 27,000 job losses at Lloyds since the 2008 financial crisis. Trade union Unite slammed the redundancy plans at the two British banks, saying it was "flabbergasted" by HSBC's move.

"Unite has been informed that these cuts will generate savings of around 9 million pounds for HSBC. Is it a coincidence that this figure is the equivalent to the bonus for Stuart Gulliver, HSBC Chief Executive, due to be paid later this month?" said David Fleming, Unite national officer.

HSBC, which employs 55,000 staff in the UK, declined to comment. Lloyds employs some 103,000 staff.

TOUGH QUARTER

Across Europe other banks are swinging the axe too -- Popolare, which has 20,000 staff, became the latest Italian lender to kick off cutbacks on Thursday, saying it was cutting 1,120 jobs. ID:nLDE75T07Y]

Intesa Sanpaolo <ISP.MI>, Italy's biggest retail bank, is slashing 3,000 jobs under a three-year business plan and UniCredit <CRDI.MI> is cutting thousands of jobs as it merges seven Italian banks into one.

Banca Montei dei Paschi di Siena <BMPS.MI> has also made cost-cutting a cornerstone of its turnaround plans.

Layoffs are even starting to fall at some of the biggest Wall Street investment banks, more than two years after many began putting the financial crisis behind them.

Credit Suisse is one of those kicking off one of the deepest round of layoffs so far this year. Cuts at its investment bank will affect around 600, people familiar with the matter said.

About 100 of those cuts are expected to fall in London, where the bank launched a consultation on jobs this week. Credit Suisse declined comment.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc <GS.N>, meanwhile, plans to lay off 230 employees in New York at the end of this year because of economic conditions, according to a state filing.

Few expect these cuts to hit too many senior dealmakers for now, although investment banks are starting to look at trimming more than just their trading teams and a few top bankers could begin to feel the heat.

UBS <UBSN.VX> is set to cut about 500 technical staff, or nearly 6 percent of its IT workforce.

Not all the cuts mean people actually have to go.

On top of the 700 actual jobs going at HSBC, a further 140 vacancies will now not be filled, one source familiar with the matter said.

(Additional reporting by Martin de Sa'Pinto in Zurich and Ian Simpson and Andrea Mandala in Milan; Editing by Mike Nesbit, David Holmes and Sophie Walker)