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Exclusive: Barclays working on $1.25 bln cost plan, could cut up to 2,000 jobs -source


  • Barclays working on $1.25 billion cost savings plan
  • Bank considering job cuts at Barclays Execution Services
  • Unit aimed at improving efficiency has become bloated
  • Barclays’ share price has fallen 26% under CEO’s tenure

LONDON, Nov 24 (Reuters) – Barclays (BARC.L) is working on plans to save up to 1 billion pounds ($1.25 billion), which could involve cutting as many as 2,000 jobs, mainly in the British bank’s back office, a person with direct knowledge of the proposals told Reuters.

Managers at Barclays, led by Chief Executive C.S. Venkatakrishnan who is known within the bank as Venkat, are reviewing proposals aimed at boosting profitability. As part of these, 1,500 to 2,000 jobs could be cut if the plans are implemented in full, the person said.

A spokesperson for Barclays declined to comment on Thursday.

The potential cuts would primarily be at Barclays Execution Services, known internally as ‘BX’, and would form part of an overall target of reducing expenses by up to 1 billion pounds across the group over several years, the person added.

Analysts said the scale of the potential savings could reassure investors, given market forecasts had ranged from 500 million to 1.5 billion pounds in restructuring costs for the bank without much sense of how that would translate to savings.

“Before today the market knew roughly how much this might cost but not what the benefits are, which now becomes clearer,” said Benjamin Toms, an analyst at RBC.

“This will be viewed as a net positive for investors, but we now need to see more detail on how long the benefits will take to appear,” he said.

Barclays has made efforts to reduce expenses in recent years by slashing bonuses, as well as jobs in its retail and investment banking businesses, but moves to shrink BX and the potential savings have not been reported before.

Created in 2017 to consolidate support functions for the bank’s two main business divisions, UK retail banking and international, BX was designed to eliminate duplication and implement post-crisis risk management rules.

Barclays’ 1 billion pound cost saving target would represent about 7% of the bank’s underlying annual operating expenses of 15 billion pounds in 2022.

The BX headcount discussions are ongoing and Barclays could decided to prioritise layoffs in other areas, the source said.

BX’s staffing and costs have grown significantly in recent years. Its headcount rose to about 22,300 as of the end of 2022, from 20,000 at end-2017, and now accounts for more than a quarter of Barclays staff, regulatory filings show.

Meanwhile, annual staff costs at BX have risen to 2 billion pounds, from 1.8 billion pounds.

Venkat is under pressure to find ways to boost Barclays’ tumbling book value ahead of an investor presentation in February when he will unveil a fresh strategy.

Since taking over as CEO, the veteran banker has grappled with the fallout from a trading blunder that cost the bank hundreds of millions of dollars.

He also faces a prolonged battle to maintain morale across Barclays’ investment bank, where a talent exodus is hindering attempts to compete with European rivals such as Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE), BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA) and UBS (UBSG.S).

Barclays’ shares gained 0.3% on Friday morning following Reuters’ first reporting the potential cuts late on Thursday, the only major British bank shares to rise on the day with the benchmark FTSE index (.FTSE) down 0.3%.

Barclays’ share price has fallen 26% since Venkat took charge on Nov. 1, 2021, while Deutsche’s shares are little changed and HSBC’s (HSBA.L) have gained 37%.

ACTIONS

Managers across teams within BX have been working with effectively frozen budgets this year and told that costs must be reduced in 2024, a second source in the division told Reuters.

Venkat signalled on Oct. 23 that Barclays will embark on further restructuring in preparation for its Feb. 20 presentation, which is seen as a key opportunity for the bank to convince shareholders that it has a plan to lift its valuation.

Barclays is “evaluating material structural cost actions”, Venkat said when it reported disappointing third-quarter results in October.

Barclays has been working with Boston Consulting Group on a strategy review, focused on which parts of the business to invest in and which should be reduced or sold.

It is also reviewing options for its payments business among other measures, Reuters reported in July.

($1 = 0.8025 pounds)

Reporting by Sinead Cruise and Lawrence White; Editing by Alexander Smith and David Evans

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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