Most UBS Layoffs Are in the U.S. and London

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UBS released more information today about its massive 15 percent staff cut that will reduce the Swiss bank's global headcount from 63,745, to 54,000.

This came as UBS released its third quarter earnings in which it reported a net loss of 2.2 billion Swiss francs.

"We are reshaping our Investment Bank, and we'll achieve this by exiting or significantly reducing lines of business, predominantly in our fixed income businesses that have been made uneconomic by changes in regulation and in the markets," said CEO Sergio Ermotti.

It appears most of the cuts will occur in the U.S. and London, with its home country of Switzerland coming in third.

An estimated 10,000 people are being let go at UBS. Of that, 4,500 of them will be in London and 3,000 in the U.S. About 2,500 positions are being eliminated in Switzerland.

Broken down further, 5,500 of the layoffs will be in the back office and 2,000 will be in the front office including investment bankers. It is unclear where the rest of the cuts will be.

According to a variety of sources, many UBS bankers in London have been unable to get into work as of this morning.

In Fixed Income and looking for work?

So what do you do if you’re looking for work – especially in fixed income? The market is suddenly swamped. Should you now accept whatever you can get? There are good reasons for accepting that you’re desperate. 60% of people let go from fixed income sales and trading businesses in 2011 were still out of the market when we looked in mid-October. The re-employment rate is not high, and with UBS pulling out, it’s going to become a lot lower.

There’s also a very real danger that other banks will follow UBS in retrenching from entire business areas. As we noted earlier today, if UBS is pulling out of fixed income, why not HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, BNP and RBS? Now may be the time to take whatever job you can get before another wave of unemployed fixed professionals hits the market.

“Unless you’re a hotshot in FX sales right now, you’re doomed,” says one London headhunter. “Hedge funds won’t talk to you. Asset managers won’t talk to you. Family offices won’t talk to you and banks are all contemplating doing something similar to UBS. You either need to take any old or job, to retrain. It’s time to seriously consider your options.”

The argument for remaining discerning 

And yet, there is much to be said for staying discerning. If market share is focusing on a few leading players, now is surely not the time to take a knee-jerk job wherever you can get one – in doing so, you may simply end up in another small player which retrenches a few months later. Just because a bank is hiring doesn’t mean it will stay committed. Headhunters claim that UBS was hiring in emerging markets sales until recently, but that it has now put those new hires out on indefinite gardening leave.

We’re told that there is interest in UBS FICC professionals. “We’re drawing up an org chart for a client today,” says one fixed income headhunter. “They want to know who’s been let go from UBS and who’s worth looking at.”

“The top FICC guys at UBS will find a job with their mates – at a discount but they will get jobs – they are getting calls already,” says another structured products headhunter.

Some people are planning to sit it out. “I talk to a lot of guys who say they can weather 1 or 2 years out of the market,” says the structured products consultant.  ”They’re hoping some sanity will come back during that time.”

Sitting it out is risky, but can pay off. UBS itself hired many of its fixed income bankers when they were redundant. As we noted in August, Barclays hired Richard Evans as COO of European equities even though he had been out of the market for eight months.

Philip Beddows, a coach and mentor at Silk Road Partnership with long experience of coaching senior bankers back into work says it can make sense to be choosy. “I’ve seen bankers who’ve taken time out to set up their own businesses before gradually coming back into financial services. They’re now at full pelt again because people understand that they have quality and huge ability. Those things don’t change because you’ve taken time off. Potential doesn’t disappear with a job,” he says.

The pragmatic approach

If you’re not a senior banker like Richard Evans and you can’t afford to sit out of the market for two years, a pragmatic approach may be your best option. Russell Clarke, a partner at Figtree Search says the best bet may to do something that suits your experience without focusing too highly on the compensation.

“In this market, you need to match your skills to an opportunity, but to place less focus on the financial returns,” says Clarke. “There’s just not a great deal out there.”

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