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J-banks: will profits slump bring layoffs?

It may be a chilly February in Tokyo, but the J-banks are feeling the heat. The country’s largest brokerage, Nomura, has posted a record quarterly loss of just over 340bn yen, and SMFG has seen third-quarter profits slump by 99%.

Are the latest losses a sign that the J-banks will soon be following in their global counterparts’ footsteps and trimming a raft of jobs?

“I think it is quite likely that they will start cutting jobs as many of the globals have been,” says David Swan, director of financial services at Robert Walters Japan.

“From what I have seen though, Japanese companies tend to be more conservative in making cuts. They possibly won’t do it quite as swiftly or as deeply, but they are generally not averse to making cuts when required.”

Keiichi Morita, a senior consultant for banking at recruiters Hays, isn’t predicting mass lay-offs in Japanese banking, but he does expect to see restructuring. “There have already been some cuts, and if a business line isn’t making money, it will be cut.”

Morita’s colleague Kazuaki Kameda, Japanese team leader for finance technology at Hays, says hiring levels have also been adversely affected. “They are being very selective with hiring, although there are roles out there for good people,” adds Kameda.

Swan says both graduate and mid-career hiring levels will be lower across the board at Japanese firms. And he isn’t too optimistic about bonuses either.

“Traditionally Japanese bank bonuses have been less performance related than their Western counterparts, although that has been changing in recent years and I think we will definitely see cuts to bonuses off the back the recent heavy losses. The exception to this is likely to be Nomura, who has guaranteed ex-Lehman staff bonuses and has paid generous bonuses to the original Nomura staff,” adds Swan.

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