HONG KONG/LONDON (Reuters) - Barclays (BARC.L) wants to remain a big player in investment banking even though the British bank is cutting costs and jobs in that business, including at least 70 in its Asian division.
The bank has not finalised the number of jobs to go in Asia but it could be as high as 90, according to people familiar with the plans, who declined to be identified because the matter is confidential.
Antony Jenkins, who took over as Barclays chief executive at the end of August, is expected to cut about 2,000 investment banking jobs globally in a review of the bank’s business due on February 12. The bank told UK staff of possible cuts earlier this week.
“Barclays will continue to be a universal bank and it will continue to have a very, very significant and large investment bank as part of that universal banking model,” Jenkins told CNBC in an interview from Davos on Thursday.
He declined to specify the scale of cuts in Asia, but said: ”We still see opportunities for us in Asia in investment banking and equities, but we also see opportunities for us in other parts of the world so it’s a relative, rather than an absolute statement.
“We live in a world where capital is scarce and we have to deploy it against our best opportunities.”
Banks globally are having to cut costs to cope with this more hostile climate, partly the result of tougher regulation on the industry after the financial crisis.
The CEO said more regulation and nationalism and a tough economic backdrop would limit revenue growth across the industry and was forcing banks to shrink, pick areas of strength and focus far more on cost-cutting.
The future shape and size of Barclays’ investment bank is considered the most critical part of Jenkins’ review as the business contributes more than half of group profits.
Jenkins took over from Bob Diamond, who left the bank after a scandal over interest rate rigging for which Barclays was fined $450 million.
The CEO is also attempting to drive through a change in culture and standards after a string of scandals, including Barclays’ fine for manipulating Libor interest rates, and mis-selling problems in Britain.
“The industry and Barclays got it wrong on occasions. We were too aggressive, we were too short-term focused and we were too self-serving,” he said.
Jenkins said he was confident in his bank’s capital strength, after warnings from the Bank of England that UK banks may need to raise capital.
“We are very comfortable with our capital position through the course of this year. We have ongoing discussions with our regulators so we’re comfortable with our capital position.”
In Asia, Barclays had spent heavily to hire a team of veteran investment bankers after the 2008 financial crisis, with the hope of creating a business in the region that would put the London-listed bank in the same league as Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N).
But the Asian operation was hit by delays in establishing its equity business, stiffer than expected competition from local firms, and a quick rebound in Asian markets that allowed rivals to regain momentum.
A spokesman for Barclays declined to comment on the scale of cuts there.
Barclays has about 3,000-4,000 investment banking staff in Asia, out of 23,300 globally.
Barclays ranked 8th in investment banking fees earned globally last year, but was only 20th in Asia, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Jenkins said his review - dubbed “Project Transform” - will have repercussions for the bank’s corporate structure.
Additional reporting by Saeed Azhar and Michael Flaherty; Editing by Daniel Magnowski and Jane Merriman