RBS has no aspirations to compete with US investment banks, and is shedding 10% of its GBM employees

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Earlier this year it looked as though RBS had a point to prove; it was rebuilding its investment bank.

Yes, it had cut over 5,000 people from its global banking and markets (GBM) division since the heady days of 2007, but the first quarter of 2011 was one of expansion.

It had hired 300 people from December to April, and increased headcount by 800 year-on-year. Recruitment sources within the bank suggested it was hiring across the board, and it was even paying slightly over the odds to attract graduates.

Now, it's shrinking again. In June it revealed that 20% of its corporate and advisory team were to be axed and now, according to an interview with the head of RBS's GBM John Hourican in the FT today, 2,000 more investment bankers are being cut as the ABN Amro integration is finalised.

Headcount in Q1 was 19,000, so the redundancies amount to around 10%.

There's no clarity on where the cuts are likely to occur as yet, other than saying the intention is to "reduce inefficiencies" as part of the "Change the Bank" initiative.

Perhaps more worryingly for all the investment bankers swayed across to RBS from US firms on relatively generous packages in recent years, the FT also says that it has "no aspirations of going head to head with the leading Wall Street banks in businesses where it lacks the sufficient scale and expertise".

The timing of the announcement seems strange, not least because RBS is due to report its interim results tomorrow - analysts are expecting poor investment banking revenues. The redundancies are not expected to formally announced then, however.

It's also still in the midst of building out its equities team. We mentioned earlier that it has around 12 equity research vacancies to fill this year and, according to Financial News, it's also looking to expand in sales and trading. With its advisory team also running at 80%, it's likely that the FICC division will feel the bulk of the cuts.

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