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盈利创纪录,经济一片大好,可是大银行为什么还要裁人?

Rey Mashayekhi 2019年02月17日

有几家投行的经济利润还算相对正常,但他们的成本基础过于庞大,远远超出了正常水平。

图片来源:Matt Crossick/PA Images/ Getty Images

上个月,华尔街的各大银行都在庆祝当季各大业务收益全面开花。在几大主要银行中,除摩根士丹利的业绩相对较差,高盛、摩根大通、花旗集团、美国银行、富国等几大银行2018年四季度的盈利都超过了1亿美元。受特朗普减税政策的利好影响,加之美国目前正处于本轮经济周期的顶点,虽然去年12月市场出现了较大波动,同时宏观经济还出现了一些其他值得担忧的现象,但华尔街各大银行的成绩依然十分抢眼。

仅仅几周后,一幅更加复杂的图景便逐渐展现开来。据悉,刚刚创下2010年以来最高年收入纪录的高盛银行正在考虑大幅削减大宗商品交易业务,高盛的新任CEO苏德巍正在重新评估该业务的成本。同时据称汇丰银行和法国兴业银行也在考虑对投行业务进行裁员。去年便已宣布裁员7000人的德意志银行也在考虑将奖金支出砍掉10%。业绩差强人意的法国巴黎银行也表示,要在去年宣布的减支计划基础上,再额外砍掉6亿欧元的成本。

这些措施虽然各不相同,其背后的动机也各有不同,但都反映出整个投行行业对市场前景的担忧。不管是受市场波动还是受监管压力影响,抑或是二者兼而有之,总之全球各大银行都在勒紧裤腰带,即便当前的宏观经济前景总体还是乐观的。

之所以会出现这种变化,在部分行业观察人士看来,是因为行业的一些深层次问题已经被掩盖了很多年。埃森哲公司的资本市场高级执行董事迈克尔·斯佩雷斯指出,银行业当前一轮的战略收缩“完全符合我们的预期”,它只是“一枚巨大的短效创可贴”,在其表面之下,掩盖的则是涉及银行业运营成本结构的大问题。

斯佩雷斯对《首富》杂志表示:“美国有几家投行的经济利润还算相对正常,但他们的成本基础过于庞大,远远超出了正常水平。”他援引埃森哲公司的数据称,“绝大多数投行”是难以实现盈利的,甚至“没有任何一家欧洲或亚洲投行”能做到盈利。

斯佩雷西认为,各大银行将大量资金消耗在了过时低效的业务系统上。“有些投行还在运营复杂的、过时的基础设施,它们简直是从洪荒时代遗留下来的。”他还表示,虽然这些银行都在不同程度地削减开支,但很多银行都在裁员的事实表明,“根本性的问题并没有得到解决”。

各大银行在资产管理领域的竞争也在日益加剧。银行与资本市场咨询机构MRV Associates的负责人维拉·罗德里格斯·瓦拉达雷斯指出,美国金融稳定委员会最近发布的统计数据显示,非银行实体持有全球金融资产的比例正在加大,已经达到30.5%,约合116.6万亿美元,超过了以往任何时期。

瓦拉达雷斯表示:“各大银行早就知道这一天会到来了。他们在金融危机期间受到了沉重打击,而这些非银行实体则不需要遵守针对银行的监管规定。”他还举了贝莱德、先锋集团等资产管理巨头的例子。“从2008年到现在,所有这些非银行机构都实现了难以置信的爆炸式增长,这也意味着银行必须‘瘦身’,学会精打细算。”

尽管宏观经济形势总体强劲,特别是美国经济持续稳健,但去年12月的市场动荡也从金融和心理方面对市场产生了很大影响。市场动荡不仅损害了一些市场敏感型业务(如固定收入证券)的利润,还引发了人们对全球经济总体方向和短期展望的深切担忧。

当然,虽然大家采取的措施大同小异——比如削减成本和裁员,但每家金融机构面临的环境却是各不相同的。比如据《华尔街日报》报道,作为唯一一家正在考虑战略收缩的美国银行,高盛正在对其业务进行行政审查,近年来,高盛的大宗商品交易业务的收入出现了下滑。(高盛的一位发言人对《首富》杂志表示,高盛“正在全公司范围内进行业务审查,但目前尚未得出结论”。)

至于那些重心向欧洲倾斜的银行,美国经济强势增长的利好对他们影响不大,同时他们也各自面临着不同的挑战。总部位于伦敦的汇丰银行着眼于保护股东的分红。总部位于巴黎的法国兴业银行的业绩受到了市场环境影响,同时由于去年11月违反了美国的经济制裁政策,它还要向美国监管机构缴纳13亿美元的罚款。受市场环境和监管压力影响,总部位于法兰克福的德意志银行的股价大幅下跌,因此德意志银行也在谋求控制成本,坊间也有传言称,该行有可能与德国商业银行进行合并。(汇丰银行的代表没有回复置评请求,德意志银行的发言人也拒绝发表评论。)法国兴业银行的一位发言人表示,该行尚未就裁员问题进行讨论,目前正在对其业务进行评估。

与此同时,总部位于巴黎的法国巴黎银行也受到了去年年底市场波动的沉重打击,该行已将2020年前的年度节支计划提高到了33亿欧元。法国巴黎银行的一名女发言人承认,该行的投行业务“受到了去年年终市场波动的影响”。但她表示,该行尚未考虑以裁员进行应对。

这位发言人还表示,巴黎银行正在谋求通过“精简IT部门、利用人工智能强化职能、变现不动产成本”,以及通过对面向消费者的零售银行业务进行“数字化转型”来实现节约开支。

与高盛和兴业银行一样,巴黎银行也未就下步是否会采取裁员措施发表评论。考虑到业界对全球宏观经济前景普遍持担忧态度和经济下行的展望,本轮全球各大银行的战略收缩也许只是一个开始。(首富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

Last month, Wall Street’s major banks celebrated robust quarterly earnings virtually across the board. Even before Morgan Stanley disclosed comparatively disappointing numbers, the likes of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo combined to report more than $100 million in earnings for the fourth quarter of 2018. Buoyed by the Trump tax cuts and the crest of the current economic cycle, the big banks shrugged aside December’s topsy-turvy market volatility and other macroeconomic concerns to inform investors and analysts alike that business, for the time being, was booming.

Fast forward a few weeks and a more complicated picture is emerging. Goldman Sachs, fresh off its highest full-year revenues since 2010, is reportedly considering major cuts to its commodities trading operation as new CEO David Solomon seeks to reevaluate costs across the business. HSBC and Société Générale are said to be weighing investment banking job cuts, while beleaguered Deutsche Bank—which last year announced plans to cut more than 7,000 jobs—is reportedly considering slashing its bonus pool by 10%. BNP Paribas, meanwhile, has responded to underwhelming results by eyeing an additional 600 million euros in previously announced annual cost savings.

The moves, while each different and motivated by varying factors, reflect a concerning state of affairs across the investment banking industry at large. Whether influenced by fluctuating market conditions, regulatory pressures, or a confluence of the two, major global banks are now tightening their belts at a time when an altogether positive macroeconomic outlook should bode well for them.

One reason for the shift is a dynamic that some industry observers believe the big banks should have addressed years ago. Michael Spellacy, Accenture’s senior managing director for capital markets, describes the current round of cutbacks as “completely in line with our expectations” and calls them a “short-term, giant Band-Aid” covering up larger issues involving their operational cost structures.

“There are a handful of U.S. investment banks who make a relatively normal economic profit, but their cost base is bloated and far in excess of the norm,” Spellacy tells Fortune. He cites Accenture data showing that “the vast majority of investment banks” struggle to make an economic profit, including “not a single European or Asian investment bank.”

The problem, according to Spellacy, is that banks are by and large burning cash on outdated, archaic business systems that are grossly inefficient. “Some of these investment banks are running complex, legacy infrastructures that haven’t been addressed since Noah boarded the Ark,” he says. Spellacy adds that while banks have moved to cut costs to varying degrees, the fact that many are opting to slash their headcount mean that “the underlying issues are not being addressed.”

The banks also have heightened competition in the realm of asset management to reckon with. Mayra Rodriguez Valladares, managing principal at bank and capital markets consultancy MRV Associates, notes recently published statistics from the Financial Stability Board that show that non-bank entities hold a greater share of global financial assets—30.5%, or $116.6 trillion—than ever before.

“The banks have known for a while that this day was coming; they got so beat up during the [financial] crisis, and all these non-banks didn’t have the same regulations to comply with,” Rodriguez Valladares says, citing asset management giants like BlackRock and the Vanguard Group as examples. “From 2008 to now, there has been unbelievable, explosive growth by all these non-banks, and what that means is banks now have to be leaner and meaner.”

Despite strong macroeconomic conditions overall, especially in the U.S., there have been lingering financial and psychological effects from December’s volatility. Not only did the fluctuating markets hurt the bottom lines of market-sensitive sectors like fixed-income securities (which virtually all investment banks took a hit on in the fourth quarter), but it triggered very real anxieties about the overall direction and near-term outlook for the global economy.

Of course, despite commonalities in the costs cuts and layoffs seen across the investment banking sector, each of the financial institutions that have taken such measures are facing circumstances unique to them. Goldman Sachs—the only major U.S.-headquartered bank to weighing such cutbacks—is in the midst of an executive review of its operations and has seen its commodities-trading revenues decline in recent years, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news of the commodities trading cuts. (A spokesman for Goldman Sachs tells Fortune that the bank is “conducting business reviews across the firm” but has “reached no conclusions.”)

The other, more Eurocentric banks—which are less insulated by a comparatively soaring U.S. economy—have their own sets of challenges to confront. London-based HSBC reportedly has an eye on protecting its shareholder dividend, while Paris-based Société Générale has been hurt by market conditions as well as the fallout from the more than $1.3 billion in fines it agreed to pay U.S. regulators in November for violating economic sanctions. Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank is also seeking to control costs as it deals with market headwinds and regulatory scrutiny that have pummeled its stock and prompted fervent speculation of a merger with fellow German lender Commerzbank. (Representatives for HSBC did not return requests for comment and a spokeswoman for Deutsche Bank declined to comment. A spokesman for Société Générale says the bank has yet to discuss layoffs and is currently reviewing its activities.)

Paris-based BNP Paribas, meanwhile, was also hit hard by the end-of-year market volatility and has raised its annual cost savings target to 3.3 billion euro by 2020. A BNP spokeswoman acknowledged that the company’s investment banking business “was impacted by the volatility at the end of the year” but says the bank has yet to consider layoffs as a response.

Rather, she says BNP Paribas is pursuing cost-cutting initiatives focused on “streamlining IT organizations, reinforcing functions by using artificial intelligence and realizing our real estate costs,” as well as a “digital transformation” of its customer-facing retail banking business.

BNP Paribas, like Goldman Sachs and Société Générale, remains noncommittal on whether it will resort to layoffs in the future. Given broader concerns about the macroeconomic picture globally—and a feeling that things will only slow down moving forward—this round of belt-tightening could only be the start for the banking powerhouses of the world.

 

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