Laying off 52,000 staff sounds very, very bad. The Times points out that Citigroup’s move ranks as one of the biggest corporate culls in history – outdone only by IBM’s eradication of 60,000 in staff in 1993.
However, there are a few palliatives for Citigroup’s poor employees. Prime among them is the fact that around 27,000 of the proposed headcount reductions are to come from failing to replace staff who leave, and from the sale of divisions, including the German retail bank and the Indian outsourcing business.
This still leaves another 25,000 jobs for elimination. Unfortunately, a high proportion of these are likely to come from the investment bank, which according to a Reuters report earlier this year, employs around 60,000 people globally.
The Telegraph this morning seems to confirm this worst-case scenario, saying that “One senior source intimated that up to a third of the European investment banking team will go.”
Will cuts of this magnitude be enough to see Citigroup’s investment banking business through the downturn? They should certainly come close. In the third quarter of 2008 revenues in the securities and banking division were down 45% year on year. Staff cuts of 33%, plus bonus reductions, should be sufficient to reduce costs in line with the new business environment.
However, the Financial Times’ Lex column is less convinced that this is an end to the bloodletting across the bank as a whole.
It points out that: “Ultimately, Citi’s target weight merely takes it back to the end of 2005, implying about a 10 per cent drop in net revenues from its 2006 peak. A 20 per cent fall in revenues would take the bank back closer to 2003 levels, when it had a mere 250,000 staff.”