More layoffs looming on Wall Street

September 13, 2011: 7:52 AM ET
stock market

As bank shares have dropped, these firms are taking stock of their employment rosters. Click chart for more market data.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Wall Street should brace for an autumn of upward revisions among the big banks. Not for profits or revenue, but in the number of layoffs to come.

Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) announced a five-fold increase Monday in its number of layoffs, noting that it plans to get rid of 30,000 jobs over a yet unspecified period.

Earlier this year, the bank said it would cut 6,000 jobs by the end of the third quarter.

Expect a perhaps not as drastic but significant increase in layoffs from Bank of America's major competitors in the coming weeks and months.

"Look across the banking industry, you'll hear the same thing happening soon," says Rochdale Securities banking analyst Dick Bove.

One of the latest iterations of the Wall Street layoff is the so-called "tap, tap" layoff.

Firms, including Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) and Credit Suisse, have begun a series of quiet layoffs in which employees were told in August that they could retain their salary and title but would not have a job as of Oct. 1, according to two sources who have interviewed prospective employees from these firms.

While crediting the banks perhaps with a bit of altruism as it's easier to find a job with a job, the primary drivers of these "tap tap" layoffs is twofold: The financial institution can decrease the number of reported layoffs if these employees find other jobs. Secondly, the banks will lower their expenses for the fourth quarter.

Bank of America cutting 30,000 jobs

Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse declined to comment.

In addition to Bank of America's planned layoffs, Barclays announced 3,000 layoffs and Credit Suisse said it would cut 2,000 jobs this year.

Citigroup, Barclays, and Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500) have not announced new layoffs for 2011 and declined to comment for this story. A spokesperson for JPMorgan Chase says the bank plans on adding thousands of jobs this year.

With the exception of JPMorgan, Wall Streets job losses could hit six figures this year, say experts.

"Department heads are literally looking at their numbers every day and trying to figure out whether they can keep a body or a body will go," says a source inside a major investment bank with knowledge of the employment situation.

Bank stocks have taken a beating this year. While Bank of America is thought to be in the most perilous position, with its stock down 47% since the beginning of the year, Citigroup (C, Fortune 500)'s stock is off 43%, JPMorgan Chase's (JPM, Fortune 500) 24%, and Barclay's is down 44%.

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While the official tallies will remain in flux throughout the fall, many of the cuts are expected to come from the retail side of the banks. Financial institutions like Bank of America with a large retail footprint are expected to make cuts from these areas.

"Banks are in cost cutting mode. Banks with the biggest retail presences have the best opportunities to become more efficient and bring down costs through layoffs," says Anthony Polini, a banking analyst at Raymond James.

Still even historically safe areas on the equity trading side have been hit.

Frank Carr, who runs an asset management recruiting firm, says he's been job hunting for individuals in the prime brokerage divisions or the people who serve hedge fund clients at several large banks who have been laid off. "Historically that had been a pretty safe place to be," he says.

Right now banks are struggling under a slew of new pressures including historically low interest rates. As interest rates drop, banks are seeing margins wane in their primary area of business: holding deposits and lending money.

Additionally the so-called Volcker Rule, which restricts a bank's ability to use its own capital to make big bets, has forced bank's to shut down or spin off of the proprietary desks executing these trades. During the financial crisis, prop desks were blamed for making things more dangerous on Wall Street.

As evidenced during the financial crisis of 2007, Wall Street woes quickly reverberate throughout the larger economy.

In both New York and Charlotte, North Carolina, where Bank of America and some of Wells Fargo's operations are headquartered, the number of employees in the financial sector dropped roughly 11% between the end of 2007 ahead of the financial crisis and 2011, according to the most recent figures from the New York's Independent Budget Office and Charlotte's Chamber of Commerce. These figures do not include any layoffs announced in 2011.

In New York, the financial sector -- numbering 168,277 people -- accounts for roughly 6% of the overall workforce, yet it has an outsize influence on the overall economy.

"It tends to have very big swings and when the financial industry goes up, it goes up a lot and brings the city along with it," says George Sweeting, deputy director of the New York City Independent Budget Office. The reverse, says Sweeting, is also true.  To top of page

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