The “Uber moment” in finance that the former CEO of Barclays warned about recently is already happening — 11 big banks have cut a combined 10% of their staff this year.
Analysis by the Financial Times shows almost 100,000 banking jobs were cut this year, equivalent to 10% of the combined staff of the 11 big European and US banks that announced cuts.
They include HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Standard Chartered, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Credit Suisse. Barclays and BNP Paribas are expected to add to cuts early in the new year.
The analysis comes just weeks after Antony Jenkins, who until July was CEO of Barclays, warned in a speech that up to 50% of banking jobs could be replaced by apps and algorithms over the next 10 years.
Jenkins’ argument rests on the rise of fintech — financial technology — startups who do things like payments, lending, and investments in a smarter, cheaper, and often faster way.
Jenkins believes fintech startups will “disrupt” financial services in the same way that Uber has disrupted the taxi industry. That will squeeze profit margins, forcing banks to cut staff, and also force them to compete on technology, another change that will reduce headcount.
Jon Peace, London-based banks analyst at Nomura, acknowledged this pressure on banks, telling the Financial Times:
Digital transformation could also be a driver of further headcount reduction longer term, with retail banks cutting branches in favour of online services and investment banks cutting back offices in favour of online technologies such as blockchain.
Blockchain is the software that underpins bitcoin and uses complex cryptography to allow transactions between strangers to take place without the need for a trusted intermediary such as a bank or clearing house.
Banks are going wild for the possibilities of the technology, with 30 leading investment banks joining an industry-wide project to develop standard applications and regulation of the technology. Goldman Sachs said in a recent note that the blockchain could change “well, everything.”
But while technology looks like it could be a huge driver of layoffs in the future, right now it’s actually a relatively minor factor. A bigger contributor to the 100,000 jobs cut this year in the increasingly regulatory burden big banks face around the world and low-interest rates hitting client activity.
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