SINGAPORE: As Deutsche Bank starts making the first of its 18,000 job cuts announced on Sunday (Jul 7), employees are bracing themselves for more uncertainties ahead.
The German banking giant is slashing jobs globally over the next three years as part of a radical restructuring plan aimed at restoring consistent profitability.
As part of the overhaul, the bank will scrap its global equities business and cut some operations in its fixed income, an area traditionally regarded as one of its strengths.
The layoffs began in Sydney on Monday, then spread across the region, taking in the bank's Hong Kong and Singapore trading hubs before bankers in Europe then reached their offices to find out their fates.
"There is hardly any work getting done today and folks are just mailing or calling friends or headhunters,” said an equities trader in Hong Kong who has spent two years at the bank.
“Half of the floor is gone and others are just waiting to be called in. Some people are saying their byes even before being called in.”
The trader added that his colleagues and him had been escorted from their meetings with Human Resources to the elevators without being allowed to return to their desks.
“The equities market is not that great so I may not find a similar job, but I have to deal with it,” said another equity sales banker in Hong Kong who has been with Deutsche for six years.
“Frankly, I was not expecting they (would) cut the entire equities piece," he added, as two colleagues came to hug him and see him off from the main building lobby.
Hong Kong has been the bank’s Asia equities hub.
In Singapore, the Asia-Pacific hub for the investment bank’s fixed income and currencies business, those who survived the cuts - for now - said the outlook remains gloomy.
"The news is obviously depressing but at least there's some clarity on the businesses we are still going to focus on. My access card is working fine. So I am safe for now. What happens tomorrow, who knows but for now, I hope this is it," said a banker in Singapore as he tapped his card to gain access to the lift.
The Financial Times reported that when staff were asked about the atmosphere in the office on Monday morning, a Singapore employee whose team had not been hit by the cuts said: “The mood is always depressed in Deutsche. People know the bank is not doing well ... It’s not like a party.”
Another employee questioned if the bank can remain competitive.
"Our ECM (Equity Capital Market) business has to be scaled back but it's not like everything will happen in one day," said a Singapore banker.
"This is not like what StanChart did to its equities business. We are not going to be giving up our live deals. But the biggest question for us is where do we go from here if we don't offer the whole suite of products? Will clients stick with us or is the game over?"
Deutsche Bank gave no geographic breakdown for the job cuts, although the bulk are expected to be in Europe and the United States.
"I was terminated this morning. There was a very quick meeting and that was it," said an IT worker leaving Deutsche's London office on Monday morning.
An equity sales staff member said as he headed to a nearby pub: "I got laid off, where else would I go?"