BAML poised to axe staff across Asia

Those to be sacked are likely to be informed this week as the group joins other firms reacting to weak regional share market activity

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2012, 2:38am

Bank of America-Merrill Lynch (BAML) is poised to shed dozens of jobs in its Asian operations, joining the latest round of finance industry layoffs that began over the summer.

Industry sources told the South China Morning Post yesterday that in the next few days, the big United States bank was expected to make an internal announcement about staff cutbacks in the region, including at its offices in Hong Kong, Tokyo and South Korea.

"Many department heads have submitted their lists of head count that will be cut. Some are still bargaining with bosses as they try to keep as many staff as they can," one of the people said, adding that the list of jobs to be cut would be finalised soon and affected employees were likely to be informed this week.

A bank spokesman in Hong Kong declined to comment.

In the past two months, traditionally a time that is off-limits for job cuts because many bankers and traders are on leave, hundreds of jobs have been chopped in Asia at big-name financial institutions such as Japan's Daiwa Securities and Credit Suisse of Switzerland.

Early this month, Germany's Deutsche Bank axed about 80 jobs in its Hong Kong and Tokyo offices, mostly sales and trading staff and some equities-related bankers and research analysts.

About two weeks ago, Japan's biggest investment bank, Nomura, also cut about 15 people in Asia. Among them were at least two managing directors.

In Hong Kong, poor equity market turnover has hurt the operations and profitability of the global investment banks as well as local brokerages.

The combined average daily turnover for equities and warrants has barely topped HK$50 billion so far this year, compared with an average of HK$70 billion last year.

Most of the jobs to be cut at bank of America-Merrill Lynch were equity market and trading-related, the banking sources said. "It is a relatively very small portion of all employees that the bank has in Asia, but it will, of course, hurt office sentiment," one person said.

The bank has several thousand employees across Asia and Hong Kong serves as its regional head office.

In Hong Kong, people laid off at major international banks can often get severance packages equal to at least three months of their salaries.

Typically, the more senior the position is, the more severance the person will get.

This can sometimes run to even up to one or two year's pay if there is a guarantee in the person's job contract, which is often the case for senior positions such as managing director.