For the longest time it was consensus thought that only Wall Street could fuck Main Street. The ride is now turning. After what the FT reports was a 16% decline in fixed income, currencies and commodities trading revenues for Q2, coupled with advisory revenues down 17%, the bank is now “planning to cut up to several hundred employees following a sharp fall in market activity in the second quarter. Sources close to the bank say that the job losses, which could be announced as early as Wednesday, will be spread across BarCap’s sales and trading staff as well as its back office support functions.” Too bad the SEC has not, and will not realize that its only function is to restore the faith of the retail investors in the credibility of the capital markets. Yes, the same retail investor who both on margin and in total has always been the primary driver of stocks. Alas that has not happened and tens of thousands of Wall Streets will soon feel the wrath of Main Street as the boycott of stocks by the broader population comes to fruition, allowing the former “strategists” to experience just how real the difference between the U-3 and U-6 rate is first hand.
News of the cuts is likely to alarm the City as well as Wall Street, where BarCap has a sizeable presence following its acquisition of the US operations of Lehman Brothers at the height of the financial crisis.
It is also likely to raise questions about BarCap’s aggressive expansion in recent years under the leadership of Bob Diamond.
The investment bank generated more than 80 per cent of Barclays’ pre-tax profits in the first half of the year, in spite of a slowdown in activity amid volatile markets and fears of a sovereign debt crisis in Europe.
Without clear signs of a pick-up in client activity, several analysts have flagged concerns about BarCap’s escalating cost base.
BarCap has added almost 4,000 staff since last June – bringing its total headcount to 25,500 – in its drive to join the ranks of the world’s leading investment banks.
That growth, however, has come at a price, with first-half salary and bonus costs across the Barclays group running at nearly £5bn, £1bn higher than the same period in 2009. Most of that growth is attributable to BarCap.
BarCap sources say that, in spite of the cuts, the bank still plans to finish 2010 with a higher headcount than at the end of 2009
And while Barclays may be the first to experience what a complete lockout of retail participation in stocks means, it certainly won’t bet the last.
Headhunters that specialise in financial services have warned that unless there is a substantial pick-up in corporate activity in the coming weeks, many more banks will be looking to trim costs by cutting staff.
Just as several recent campaigns have tried valiantly to get Americans to withdraw their deposits from TBTF banks (an,d unfortunately, have not succeeded…at least not yet), so an ever increasing disclosure into the true criminality of Wall Street’s practices has eroded virtually all the credibility of American capital markets, which incidentally was never deserved to begin with.
We can only hope that as headcounts are eliminated in the tens of thousands, and as NY (and other) city income tax revenues plummet, that more and more people will require that the SEC finally do its work, and regain some semblance of control over stock (and other OTC product) trading. Because, as Zero Hedge discloses day after day, the current jungle is a marketplace only fit for algorithms and primary dealers. And as Barclays has now learned the hard way, neither pay the bills at the end of the day. In the meantime, if nothing changes, we will continue exposing the travesty of US markets day after day, as ever more ill-gotten credibility is destroyed, until the point at which none is left will be the singularity in which Wall Street finally consumes itself.
Whether it is by soft, or hard reset, the change is coming.