EDITOR'S TAKE: It's too late to make amends

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If the organisation you work for has announced redundancies and indicated that your job is 'at risk', you will inevitably want to do all you can to save it. Put in extra hours, ingratiate yourself with management, ingratiate yourself with clients, ingratiate yourself with subordinates: whatever it takes will appear worth it.

The reality, however, is that it may be too late to make a difference.

Writing in the Financial Times earlier this week, Lina Saigol said Bank of America and Merrill Lynch are starting to tackle the crossovers between the two organisations.

Saigol said managers from both sides are being asked to produce "CVs; profiles; deal lists; client relationships and revenue generation going back two years [our emphasis], banker by banker", to help determine who should stay and who should go.

At BofA and Merrill, survivors will therefore not be those who share drinks with the boss or suddenly improve their performance in the final quarter of 2008. Survivors will be those who can prove they have achieved consistently over the past 24 months.

Mounting layoffs and pressure to cut costs quickly may prevent other banks from being as rigorous as Merrill and BofA. The head of HR at one US firm says analysing performance quantitatively over this length of time is unusual.

Instead, he says it's common to base redundancy decisions on a more transparent indicator of historical performance: recent bonuses. "If you have received a good bonus over the past few years, it is usually a good indication that you will be shielded from redundancy," he says.

A VP at one US firm points out that a merely good bonus may not be enough, however. With most people paid well since 2006, it is only people who received the largest payouts who can consider themselves truly immune.

The VP adds that, in his opinion, the people best equipped to survive the next 12 months will be those with a long track record in a single firm: "It will help if you have a long institutional history with one firm which means your performance over the cycle is observable."

By comparison, he predicts that the most vulnerable will be those who have joined relatively recently, particularly on guaranteed packages. "People who came in on guarantees in the past two years have been complacent about their performance," he says.

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