Nation & World

Some big banks are selectively cutting jobs

Amid continuing economic woes, layoff announcements have been pouring out of big banks lately.

HSBC this week said it was slashing 30,000 jobs worldwide. Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are also reducing employee ranks.

The big banks in Charlotte, Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co., haven't revealed any company-wide job cuts, but have trimmed positions selectively in areas such as mortgages. Both have also launched wide-ranging efficiency initiatives, which have raised the specter of more cuts to come for employees in Charlotte and around the country.

Banks will probably shed more jobs as they struggle to generate revenue amid a difficult interest rate environment and economic conditions, said Nancy Bush, contributing editor with research firm SNL Financial.

"The drip will become an avalanche next year," she said.

Bush, though, isn't expecting huge companywide layoffs at either Bank of America or Wells Fargo. Broad layoffs would be too damaging to morale at Bank of America, and Wells Fargo isn't known for sweeping cuts, she said.

In the Charlotte area, the two banks have said they have more than 35,000 workers. In Mecklenburg County, the finance and insurance sector employed about 49,300 in the fourth quarter of last year, up from about 47,000 at the end of 2009 but down from 54,000 at the beginning of 2007, before the financial crisis flared.

Bank of America is nearly halfway through its "New BAC" project that aims to cut expenses and improve efficiency at the nation's biggest bank. Chief executive Brian Moynihan said he will reveal more details about plans for consumer businesses in October. After that, the bank will begin evaluating commercial, investment banking and wealth management units.

"Suffice it to say that the work has gone well and shows great opportunity to make our company better and more efficient," Moynihan said during last month's earnings conference call.

The bank's total employment grew in 2010 as the bank added staff to handle loan modifications and foreclosures. But the total workforce fell by about 200 to 287,839 in the second quarter of 2011 from the first quarter.

The decline came after the bank announced plans in April to eliminate 1,500 mortgage positions nationwide. In other areas, such as Wall Street-style banking and markets businesses, the bank has been expanding internationally while scaling back domestically, keeping employment flat.

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