Canadian banks for the Canadians, German banks for the Germans, American banks for the Americans?

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Is the downturn encouraging a form of racial discrimination in which banks favour employees who are the same nationality as their head office?

Maybe so. According to Achim Beck, a German who worked at CIBC in London, CIBC is erring on the side of non-Canadian employees when choosing who gets the chop.

There have been similar rumblings of discontent at Dresdner Kleinwort, where it's alleged that German-born bankers are favoured over all others. And Bank of America is withdrawing offers to non-US MBA students as a result of visa restrictions on US firms receiving government money.

One non-German banker at an increasingly German bank says such behaviour is to be expected: "Banks are pulling back to their core markets, so it's inevitable that they'll favour people of their home nationality."

Jane Mann, head of employment law at Fox Williams says claims of racial favouritism are nothing new: "Bankers in London quite often think they won't be able to progress because the core group are from the home country."

But while Beck is taking CIBC to a tribunal, Mann says formal complaints of racial favouritism are rare. "It's very difficult to prove and not the sort of claim you want to have on your record unless you're very desperate and it's the only thing you've left."

We may have reached that stage.

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