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交易之死:大银行普遍认为交易业务没有前途

Rey Mashayekhi 2019年08月18日

越来越多的大银行发现交易业务无法盈利,因而不得不压缩规模。

今年7月,德意志银行砍掉了全球股票交易业务并同时裁员约五分之一,消息一出,整个银行界深受震动。

就这家陷入困境的德国银行巨头根深蒂固的问题而言,此番业务缩减的巨大幅度实属罕见。但实际情况是,面对富有魅力的交易业务,越来越多的大银行都开始发现无法从中盈利,进而相应地压缩规模。

一个很好的例证就是,上周彭博报道称,花旗集团正准备在交易部门裁员数百人,其中股票交易业务至少将砍掉100个职位。而今年上半年,花旗的股票交易收入同比下降了17%。其他银行也在近几个月采取了类似措施——今年4月,总部设在巴黎的法国兴业银行宣布在交易部门裁员1200人。

总体而言,主要投资银行都在竭尽全力地削减成本,无论是年初高盛压缩曾经引以为傲的大宗商品交易业务,还是巴克莱在今年第二季度“全面”裁员3000人。

最受伤的看来是交易员,一系列因素削弱了大银行在股票和固定收益产品领域里的竞争能力,让他们成了受害者。原因有哪些呢?一是自动化,另外还有更小、更灵活的华尔街机构带来的激烈竞争,包括那些不受大衰退后银行资本金要求约束的非银行实体。

“人员变少”

毫无疑问,股票和债券交易“电子化”降低了交易部门的人员需求。虽然衍生产品和高收益信贷等领域仍然经常需要人力互动,但传统的股票和固定收益现金交易正在越来越自动化。

投资银行Sandler O’Neill的银行板块分析师杰夫·哈特说:“我们看到的是人类交易员需求的下降以及部分业务的整合。”

哈特指的是花旗决定将股票、主经纪商以及证券服务业务整合成一个部门,这是它“为提高交易业务效率所采取措施”的一部分,而这“将使员工数量全面下降”。

他还说,面对压低利润率的不利因素,花旗等现在开始裁减交易员的银行普遍“反应迟缓”,而且这样的趋势只会延续下去,“我觉得华尔街的交易员数量将持续减少。”

对花旗来说,这样做尤其痛苦,原因是近年来该行下了很大力气来建设自己的交易业务,并将业务范围扩展到了为自己争得很大一部分声誉的消费者零售产品以外。同时,尽管花旗表现强劲的消费业务确实缓和了投行业受到挑战的冲击,但压缩交易部门规模依然表明就连最大的银行如今也觉得步履维艰。

金融服务咨询公司Whalen Global Advisors的董事长克里斯托弗·惠伦曾经在贝尔斯登从事投行业务,他认为和摩根大通、摩根士丹利和高盛等股市重磅选手相比,花旗、德意志银行等公司已经发现自己属于“二流”选手。

惠伦指出:“现在的局面和我刚入行时相比已经发生了变化,现金[交易]已经很难做了。衍生产品的情况不一样,但现金股票和现金债券——不行了。”他还说,较小的精品投行的业务模式更倾向于以佣金为导向,“有什么就吃什么,大公司则仍然采取基于工资和奖金的策略,但这确实已经行不通了。”

花旗等银行把精力集中在消费银行等领域反而更好,就连高盛这样传统上以投行为主的公司也在越来越多的发展此类业务。

惠伦说:“看看花旗的业绩就会发现,消费[银行]是他们最有价值的部门,而且比其他业务有价值得多。如果要在消费[银行]和资本市场之间进行选择,你一定会选前者,它要稳定的多。在资本市场上,你把人放在那儿,然后期待他们能够赚到钱。所有的二线[交易]机构都被干掉了。”

环境已变

总的来说,现在银行发现在大衰退至今的10年里,自己所处的竞争环境已经出现了巨大变化。私募公司和债务基金等非银行实体掌握了规模空前的资产,而且不受银行的资本金要求约束——资产负债表已经不像以前那么强健,银行也发现自己无法再像以前那样参与到那些高风险、高收益的市场中。

资本市场咨询机构MRV Associates的负责人维拉·罗德里格斯·瓦拉达雷斯认为:“黑石和Citadel这样的非银行机构不受银行资本金要求限制;它们更灵活,可以雇佣许多人,还能够从事风险较大的业务。”

哈特持同样观点,他还指出,如今银行基于自身交易仓位所需要持有的资金数额“绝对已经改变了这个行业。你已经无法像危机前那样加那么多的杠杆。”

哈特认为,这一点,再加上投资者的风险偏好远未回到危机前的水平,迫使银行做出相应调整。同时,虽然压缩交易业务规模可能为它们节省短期成本,但考虑到这个市场是发展客户关系并开展其他“较高利润率”业务的非常关键的渠道,长期而言它们可能为此付出沉重代价。

哈特指出:“对其他许多投行业务来说交易部门都很重要。如果像德意志银行那样放弃美国股市交易,在下一个大型IPO中担任主承销商的难度就会显著上升,因为你不再交易股票了。这样的决定会影响到其他收入。”

当前压缩交易业务的趋势是谨慎的财务决定,还是一项长期机会成本呢?时间会给我们答案。(财富中文网)

译者:Charlie

审校:夏林

The news last month that Deutsche Bank was axing its global equities trading operations—and cutting roughly one-fifth of its total workforce in the process—shook the banking world to its core.

Yes, the sheer extent of Deutsche’s cutbacks may be unique to the beleaguered German giant’s deep-seated issues. But the reality is that when it comes to the glamorous world of trading, more and more big banks are finding it an unprofitable proposition—and scaling back accordingly.

Case in point: last week’s revelation that Citigroup is bracing to cut hundreds of jobs across its trading division, including at least 100 positions in its equities-trading unit, according to Bloomberg. That comes as Citi's equities trading revenues declined 17% year-on-year through the first six months of 2019. Other banks have taken similar measures in recent months; Paris-based Société Générale announced 1,200 layoffs in the division that houses its trading activities in April.

And more broadly, major investment banks are doing whatever necessary to cut costs, whether it’s Goldman Sachs pulling back at its once-vaunted commodities trading desk earlier this year, or Barclays laying off 3,000 employees “across the board” in the second quarter.

Yet it is traders that seem to be paying the steepest price, having fallen victim to a confluence of factors that have hurt big banks’ ability to compete in the world of equities and fixed-income products. Among the culprits? Automation, but also fierce competition from smaller, more nimble players on Wall Street—including non-bank entities that don’t have the capital requirement regulations imposed on banks following the Great Recession.

“Fewer heads”

Without a doubt, the “electronification” of stock and bond trading has lessened the need for headcount at trading desks. While products like derivatives and high-yield credit still often require the need for human interaction, traditional cash equities and fixed-income trading has become an increasingly automated proposition.

“What we’re seeing is less need for human traders, and we’re also seeing some businesses be consolidated,” according to Sandler O’Neill anaylst Jeff Harte, who covers the banking sector.

Harte points to Citi’s decision to consolidate its equities, prime brokerage and securities services units into one division as part of an “ongoing effort to make trading businesses more efficient,” and one that is “leading to a general decline in heads.”

He adds that Citi and other banks that are now reducing their trader counts have generally been “slow to the punch” in addressing headwinds that have impacted their profit margins—and only expects the trend to continue. “I think we’ll keep seeing trader counts ratchet their way down across Wall Street,” Harte says.

For Citi, it is a particularly painful development given the extent to which the bank has sought to build up its trading business in recent years, extending its reach beyond the consumer-facing retail offerings that give it much of its name recognition. And though Citi’s robust consumer business does soften the blow when it comes to a challenged investment banking sector, the pullback in its trading operations is a testament to how hard even the largest banks are finding things these days.

Compared to equities heavyweights like JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, the likes of Citi and formerly Deutsche Bank have found themselves “second-tier players,” according to Christopher Whalen, a former Bear Stearns banker and chairman of financial services consultancy Whalen Global Advisors.

“It’s a different world than when I first got into the business, and it’s hard to get people to do this cash [trading] stuff,” Whalen notes. “Derivatives are different, but cash stocks and cash bonds—no.” He adds that while smaller, boutique investment banking players have a more commission-oriented, “eat what you kill” approach to the business, “the big shops still have this strategy of salaries and bonuses, and you just can’t do that anymore.”

Instead, the likes of Citi are better off focusing on segments like consumer banking, which even traditionally investment banking-focused players like Goldman Sachs increasingly getting into.

“If you look at what Citi’s got, consumer [banking] is far and away the most valuable part of their book,” Whalen says. "If you have a choice between consumer [banking] and capital markets, you’re going to do the former—it’s much more stable. With capital markets, you put people at desks and hope they make money. All of the second-tier [trading] players are getting culled.”

A changed environment

In general, the banks now find themselves competing in an environment that has changed drastically in the decade since the Great Recession. With non-banking entities like private equity firms and debt funds now holding an unprecedented amount of assets—and those players not subject to the same capital requirement regulations that banks are—balance sheets aren’t as robust as they once were and banks find themselves unable to play in the same high-risk, high-reward markets that they once were.

“The non-banks like Blackstone and Citadel, they don’t have the capital requirements that the banks do; they’re more nimble, they can hire a lot of people and take on riskier transactions,” according to Mayra Rodriguez Valladares, managing principal at capital markets consultancy MRV Associates.

Harte echoed that sentiment, adding that the amount of capital that banks now have to hold against many of their trading positions “has definitely changed the industry. You can’t lever up as much as you could pre-crisis.”

That, coupled with investor risk-appetites that Harte says have yet to return anywhere near pre-recession levels, have forced the banks to adjust accordingly. And while they may be saving money in the near-term by scaling down their trading operations, it could costly them dearly in the long-term—given how the market is a vital gateway toward developing client relationships and procuring other, “higher-margin” business.

“Having a trading desk is important to a lot of other investment banking businesses,” Harte notes. “If you were to exit U.S. equities trading like Deutsche Bank did, it’s going to be a lot harder to be the lead underwriter on the next big IPO if you’re not trading stocks. Other revenues are impacted by these decisions.”

Only time will tell if the current trend of trading austerity proves a prudent financial decision, or a long-term opportunity cost.

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