The big U.S. investment banks have each reported their fourth quarter results for 2014. Based upon comments made in their investor calls and results presentations, we can say with a degree of certainty that [efc_twitter text="2015 will not be the year when front office banking jobs come roaring back to make up for lost time"]. Right now, it looks like 2015 will be a year of continued cost cutting, with some tweaks.
At J.P, Morgan, the euphemism of the moment is 'business simplification'. Business simplification means the sale and removal of parts of the business which are surplus to requirements. In 2014 those parts of the business were the physical commodities group and the global special opportunities group.(a kind of private equity unit that also invested in distressed debt).
At Goldman Sachs, CFO Harvey Schwartz said 2015 will be about a "relentless focus on efficiency" and "staying very focused on expenses." Although Goldman has replaced $2bn of "lost revenues", Schwartz said it would be great to have another, "couple of billion dollars" in revenues - as if that might be a prerequisite to significantly expanding headcount. He also said that Goldman will be, "very focused on rule compliance", that success in trading has become all about "technology scale," that Goldman wants to take a leadership role in creating global trading venues and processing systems, and that the firm Goldman is, "well-positioned" as it is - implying that 2015 will be a year of stasis.
At Morgan Stanley, cuts in fixed income look likely to continue. In yesterday's results presentation, the bank said it's in the process of "optimizing" interest rates and "rolling down" structured credit. Both could lead to further layoffs in rates and credit trading teams.
At Citi, continued cuts look likely in prime broking as the bank exits hedge fund services. And at BofA, there was no mention of recent trading desk redundancies, but the bank said it's been cutting costs across the bank in order to invest in sales and product capacity.
Where else will hiring happen in 2015? Overall, US investment banks were non-specific, but M&A looks like a good bet. Most banks said their M&A pipelines are healthy - Goldman said its pipeline is the healthiest it's been since 2007. Macro desks could also be a possibility - some FX desks are seriously understaffed following redundancies relating to last year's trading scandal, and most US banks cited FX and rates as a source of strength in the fourth quarter. Thanks to the Swiss National Bank and the ECB, 2015 could yet be the year in which macro desks make a comeback.