Westpac banks on big job losses

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The AU$18.6bn merger plan announced this month between Westpac and St George looks destined to lead to big job cuts.

Experts expect thousands of jobs to be axed as the banks integrate their operations and reduce overlaps across different divisions, as well as at the branch level.

Toon Van Beeck, senior analyst with industry research group IBISWorld, estimates mergers and takeovers in the banking sector will result in the loss of some 5,000 jobs by 2011, with most of those going from St George and Westpac. "The main area where there is going to be a loss of workers is in the back-office operations. Westpac has substantial back-office numbers," he says.

Another operation likely to experience some near-term cuts is investment bank Citi Smith Barney, which is said to be in the sights of National Australia Bank.

NAB would not comment on the speculation.

Industry rumours are rife at the moment, with UBS also linked to speculation about big job cuts. But UBS is keeping its lips officially closed regarding possible losses in Australia.

Michael Markiewicz, principal of recruitment firm Carmichael Fisher, says that while market rumours abound, investment banking jobs activity is still relatively strong. "There's certainly good jobs there for us to fill and good candidates looking to hear of other jobs," he reports. "There's definitely still activity."