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Bank of America Merrill Lynch has cut 15-20% of its equities sales staff – and other items from its Q1 results

Bank of America

In theory, BAML’s reported job cuts in its investment bank have been light compared to its peers. Its markets arm had been ‘right-sized’ consistently over the years, so wholesale job cuts were not deemed necessary. The 150 job cuts announced in March amount to just 5% of headcount, for example.

However, the axe may not have finished swinging yet. In the bank’s Q1 results call today, CEO Brian Moynihan confirmed that one division has been particularly hard hit by ongoing cost-savings in the division.

“We’ve made major adjustments to the size of the platform,” he said about the banks markets division. “To give you an example, 60-70 equity sales people have gone, which amounts to 15-20% of headcount in this area.”

Overall, costs were down in its markets division by $300m, or around 9%, largely due to headcount reductions and a more restrained approach to compensation.

Moynihan said that there would also be “major adjustments” in the fixed income currencies and commodities (FICC) division as well. It’s easy to see why – trading revenues fell 17% in FICC and 11% in equities year on year. This compares with a 13% and 5% decline at J.P. Morgan’s the respective divisions during Q1.

But BAML’s traders have performed well, relative to the bank’s risk appetite. Value at Risk (VaR) in its trading divisions has fallen 32% since Q1 in 2015 from $62 to $42.

What’s more, CFO Paul Donofrio believes that the tough trading conditions in January and February eased in March – particularly in Asia – and that April so far is “more like March than January and February”.

But Moynihan was more bullish about the effect of market stabilisation on its investment banking division. Investment banking fees are down by 19% year on year with equity issuance (down 45% to $188m) most adversely affected.

“The work is ready to go and once we see more stability, it will come through,” he said. “Right now, markets are stable and people can finance if they want to. The CEO and boards want to know whether they can count on this stability as they go to market.”

Where is Bank of America hiring? Try wealth management in the U.S. The number of wealth advisors grew 3% to 18,111 in the first quarter.

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