RBS trims 400 investment bankers and cuts pay

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While investment bankers at the likes of Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan will have been relatively encouraged by their firms' recent results, those at Royal Bank of Scotland are still facing falling revenues and hundreds of job cuts per quarter.

RBS has shrunk its front-office investment banking headcount by 400 in just three months as part of ongoing cut-backs in the struggling division, according to its interim 2015 results released today. Employee numbers in RBS’s investment bank fell from 3,500 in the first quarter to 3,100 in the second. Those are significant numbers when you consider that about 1,900 people lost their jobs across the entire industry in Q1.

Hiring in the personal and business banking unit helped total headcount at RBS stay steady quarter on quarter at 109,200.

The RBS results also show that year on year it has trimmed 1,200 investment bankers – an average of 300 a quarter, or 100 a month – helping to drive an 8% overall reduction in staff costs as the firm refocuses its business on UK retail and corporate banking.

Fear of redundancy is not the only reason to consider leaving RBS before the axe swings. The cost-conscious bank, 78% owned by the British government, is also cutting compensation for the investment bankers it still employs. Staff costs in the division worked out at £45.8k ($71.5k) per head in the second quarter, compared with £51.4k ($80.2k) in the first three months of 2015. This drop of almost 11% compares with a 12% increase over the same period at Morgan Stanley’s investment bank, for example.

Across all divisions RBS reported a 27% increase in second-quarter profit to £293m ($457m), largely driven by booking more mortgage applications. Quarter-on-quarter income was down 28% in its investment bank, however, reflecting “eurozone uncertainty, impacting rates and credit in particular, and the normal seasonal impact compared to Q1 2015”. Litigation and conduct costs in the division remain high at £373m ($582m) for Q2, although this is significantly down on the £500m ($781m) reported in the previous quarter.

RBS is now “implementing a simpler operating mode” within investment banking, focused on its traditional areas of strengths: debt financing, rates and currencies, according to its results presentation. But with the Financial Times suggesting earlier this year that up to 90% of staff in RBS's corporate and investment bank are in danger of redundancy, it seems likely that more job losses will follow during the remainder of 2015.

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