(BAC) Bank of America Adds 13 Bankers to Hit List

Bank of America Corp. (BAC) has sacked 13 investment bankers in its industrials group, which provides advisory and financing services through two units, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday following communication with two people familiar with the action. The retrenched bankers include managing directors David Iwan and Egan Antill.

This explains BofA’s attempt to improve profitability by trimming staff costs amid revenue headwinds resulting from a lackluster economy and stricter capital requirements by regulators.

However, the layoffs in the industrials group were not a part of BofA’s ongoing cost-cutting initiative –– Project New BAC. The latest job cuts represent about 5% workforce reduction in the said group.

Last week, BofA confirmed its plan to retrench about 30,000 workers under the first phase of Project New BAC. This will reduce BofA’s 288,000 workforce by 10%. According to the company, many of these layoffs are expected to come through attrition and elimination of unfilled positions. However, the retrenchment of the firm’s investment bankers may deepen further.

The full implementation of Phase I of the new program is expected to lop off about $5 billion in annual expenses through 2014. This represents about 18% reduction on the current annual expense level of $27 billion. For a company wading in $1 trillion problem-loan portfolio, the looming layoff scenario was perhaps foreseen.

The bank intends to implement more changes with the second phase, beginning October and running through March 2012. Corporate and investment banking operations as well as other businesses and operations that were not reviewed in Phase I will be covered in the next chapter. Cost savings in billions can be expected from phase two of the company’s restructuring venture.

The only consolation is that the upcoming job cuts will not exceed 30,000 to 35,000 layoffs announced by the company in 2008 when the economy tanked and BofA was in the process of taking over Merrill Lynch.

Last month, BofA said that 3,500 workers would get the axe this quarter. Thousands of additional layoffs were expected to ensue in the upcoming quarters, but the expected number of about 10,000 was substantially lower than the figure now confirmed.

BofA was one of the biggest victims of the 2007 housing bubble. Its share price has plummeted about 85% since then. Despite taking several restructuring initiatives, the company has still not been able to recover from the crisis.

The company is making every effort to stay afloat. Measures like realigning the balance sheet in accordance with regulatory changes, shedding non-core assets to strengthen its capital position and the recent reshuffling of its top management to align its operating units per key customer groups namely individuals, companies and institutional investors vouch for its good business intention.

It isn’t just BofA that’s giving all the bad news. Last month, Bank of New York Mellon Corp (BK) said that it will slash about 1,500 jobs, which represents about 3% of its total workforce. State Street Corp. (STT) also plans to let go 850 technology jobs through layoffs and outsourcing.

Until there is an evident revival in revenue generation, a hideous cost-to-income ratio will force many more banks to reduce costs through job cuts to maximize profits and boost capital ratios.

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