Will 10,000 jobs be axed from Aussie banking?

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Get ready for a rocky 2009 - KPMG reckons banks in Australia will slash 10,000 jobs over the next year. The accountancy firm's recently released annual banking statistics survey states that more consolidation will lead to fewer, larger banks. The scale, scope and speed of the financial crisis will also help to send headcount tumbling.

Westpac's AU$17bn takeover of St George is likely to result in redundancies for 10% of the target bank's workforce. This is just one example of forthcoming cost cutting that will remove about 10,000 of the banking sector's 152,000 staff in 2009, according to KPMG head of banking Andrew Dickinson. (The Australian).

So are the Big Four already proclaiming a bloodbath in 2009? Unsurprisingly, none will admit that their employees will be among the 10,000 potential victims.

Westpac tells us that its proposed takeover of St George will not be accompanied by wholesale cuts - "reassignments and natural attrition" will be the standard procedure. Meanwhile, it's business as usual (for the time being at least) at CBA and NAB. ANZ is current restructuring and says there will be cuts to come, but nothing on the scale predicted by KPMG.

Heather Wellard, a spokeswoman for the Australian Bankers' Association, wouldn't comment on future layoffs, but says the local job market is holding up well. "In an environment which has seen employment reductions in the banking sector in other countries, employment at the main Australian retail banks showed a small increase of 1% over the past year," she adds.

But while the banks are staying officially upbeat, Finance Sector Union spokesman Rod Masson is still worried. He won't predict the size of sector-wide redundancies, but does warn that banks could be opportunistic and make sweeping cuts to save costs.

Is 10,000 accurate or way off the mark? Add your comments below.

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