Coutts rethink means jobs axe

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The Independent Online
NIGEL COPE

Coutts & Co, the blue-blooded private bank where the Queen holds her account, will announce a large number of redundancies on Monday as part of a radical efficiency drive to improve the bank's performance. It is thought that several hundred job losses could be involved.

It will be the second time in four years that the bank has wielded the axe on its once cossetted staff. In 1991 it shed 300 jobs after the group recorded a pounds 15m loss.

All 1,600 of the bank's UK staff have been told to attend an "all-staff event" at the Royal Festival Hall on Monday evening. Attendance is compulsory and will see staff converging on the arena from the group's 10 London branches as well as satellite offices in Bath, Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff.

At the meeting, Coutts chief executive Herschel Post will outline the bank's strategy but also discuss the need for a leaner and more efficient operation.

Coutts confirmed that a "sustantial number " of jobs will go over the next one to two years but that a final figure had not yet been arrived at.

"The main part of the evening is to discuss the future of the bank and how we expand the business," a spokesman said.

The bank is hoping to achieve the cuts through voluntary redundancies but may have to resort to compulsory cuts if not enough volunteers come forward. Commenting on the reasons for the cutbacks the bank said: "We have found that some of our internal procedures are inefficient and burdensome."

Coutts said it was still intent on growing the business and that it was performing well. However, group profits last year fell from pounds 79m to pounds 68m, though the UK division performed well.

One problem is that the market for private banking has become increasingly competitive. In addition to the old guard of Coutts, Hoare & Co, Child & Co and Adam & Co, the high street banks such as Midland and Lloyds have invested heavily in private banking businesses. Coutts is owned by NatWest.

The UK market for private banking is growing at around 6 per cent a year while the general banking market is considered as a mature sector.

Though Coutts has quietly been broadening its customer base it still requires customers to have income of around pounds 100,000 year and/or assets of pounds 150,000.

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