Finance employees await the reaper

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The Independent Online
'BLOODY awful, and it is going to get worse.' That, said Leif Mills, general secretary of the Banking, Insurance and Finance Union, is the lot of the bank worker this summer.

'What happened in manufacturing in the early Eighties is happening in finance in the early Nineties,' he said.

Last year, 22,500 jobs were lost from the banking and insurance sectors. A few months ago, Mr Mills predicted a further 30,000 to go this year. Already:

National Westminster, which plans 15,000 redundancies over the next five years, is expected to follow cuts in London with news of losses in the regions, starting with the North-West;

Royal Bank of Scotland has embarked on 'Project Columbus', a restructuring exercise likely to cause branch closures and job losses north of the border;

Yorkshire Bank is shifting its computer operation to Clydesdale, its sister bank in Scotland;

TSB is scaling back;

Midland is in the throes of a merger with the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank;

Lloyds and Barclays have declared no compulsory redundancies but are cutting back on recruitment.

Mr Mills knows of only one bank that is not shedding staff: Bank of Scotland.

While the numbers are lower, the outlook in the City is equally bleak.

'Last month was terrible - there was just no business,' said Brian Winterflood, head of market-maker Winterflood Securities. 'This month is diabolical.'

For most firms to make money, the stock market needs to be trading around 600 million shares a day. At present, the daily tally is about 350 million. The hoped-for boost from share issues never materialised as, one by one, they flopped. 'The public has run away from stocks and shares at the moment,' said one broker.

Hardest hit are the large houses, which have geared their operations and profitability to high levels of turnover. 'They are quietly haemorrhaging,' said Mr Winterflood. Specialist operations are being closed down, while staff who leave of their own accord are not being replaced.

S G Warburg is pulling out of traditional options and Japanese warrants. Hoare Govett is being put under the microscope by AmRo, its new owner. UBS Phillips & Drew is rumoured to be contemplating cutbacks. And the mood within BZW is said by one insider to be like 'a morgue', as staff await news of rumoured redundancies.

When it comes, the chop is swift and brutal. Last week, at one of the largest houses, a trader with six years' service was asked to go and see a director. He never returned. A few minutes later, an executive appeared and took his jacket and briefcase away.