Upset in Paris as U.S. style layoffs come to small French bank

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Exane Derivatives in Paris is a small place. Exane as a whole only employs 935 people according to figures on its website. A tiny fraction of those work for the French derivatives operation. In the circumstances, a continued drip, drip of layoffs is raising eyebrows internally.

As we reported last month, it's not normal to make large scale redundancies in France. When SocGen wanted to let go of 500 people in its corporate and investment bank, it was forced to give them generous voluntary redundancy packages. BNP Paribas, too, has often opted for voluntary redundancies in its "simple and efficient" cost cutting programme.

Exane Derivatives, however, appears to be bucking the trend. Insiders say it keeps laying people off. Quietly, slowly, a few every month so that no one will notice.

Last month's big exit was Stéphane Bettane, the managing partner of the derivative business. This month's is said to be Hedda Benguerah, the head of marketing. Insiders say a senior strategist, a convertible salesperson and several support staff are leaving too.

Exane didn't respond to a request to comment. Benguerah didn't confirm her exit, but was not there when we called.

The exits, which are becoming a monthly occurrence, are at odds with the norms of French finance employment. "This is a small place and we're starting to think that four or five people will go every few weeks," says one insider. "They're doing it like this so that they don't have to deal with collective redundancy legislation," he adds. French collective redundancy regulations apply only to instances where ten or more people are let go at one time.

In opting for a continuous drip of gradual layoffs, Exane is emulating U.S. banks like Goldman Sachs. Headhunters in London say the U.S. bank has a tendency to dribble staff out below the radar rather than making large headline-grabbing layoffs. Exane seems to have decided to do much the same.

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Photo credit: I love Paris in the springtime by Jonathan Ooi is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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