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Why would BNP Paribas be laying off U.S. investment bankers right now?

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BNP Paribas is laying off investment bankers at its seventh avenue office in New York. So says Dealbreaker, which claims the French bank booked out the entire 9th floor to inform unfortunate employees of their fate today.

Is this true? BNP’s U.S, office was unable to immediately respond to a request for comment, but the French bank’s Paris-based head of press categorically informed us that there are, “no plans for redundancies in the corporate and investment bank” at group level. Sure, BNP has increased its annual cost saving target from €2bn to €2.8bn, but the bank said this doesn’t imply any layoffs. Instead, the cost savings will be achieved in other (mysterious) ways, based around being “simple and efficient.”

If BNP is indeed chucking out U.S. staff today, it could also damage its already weak U.S. employer brand. One M&A headhunter said Wall Street investment bankers are wary of the French bank, which has been building its US investment banking for years but hasn’t made much headway. The French bank ranked 20th for U.S. investment banking revenues in 2013 according to Dealogic, with a just 0.7% market share.

BNP clearly wants to address this and has promised to bolster its U.S. high yield business and strengthen its relationship capabilities. A sudden round of redundancies could make it harder for the French bank to hire.

And yet, BNP – along with other European banks on Wall Street is being stung by new U.S. capital rules requiring that banks set more capital against their U.S. subsidiaries.  A recent analysis by Morgan Stanley suggested that BNP is one of the least affected banks on Wall Street by these new rules. If it is indeed laying people off it may not bode well for bankers elsewhere,

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