(adds Singapore detail)
By Saeed Azhar
SINGAPORE, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Citigroup (C.N) may cut less than 300 jobs in Singapore, a sign Asia could see much smaller cuts than other regions as part of the U.S. bank’s global restructuring plan, sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
The job cuts, which will be implemented soon, are part of plans revealed by Citigroup on Monday to cut 52,000 staff globally by early next year in a dramatic move to restore the second-biggest U.S. bank to health.
Citigroup employs about 9,000 people in Singapore and the layoffs account for about 3 percent of its staff, said a source who declined to be identified because the plans were not public.
“In Singapore, there will be modest headcount reductions,” a bank spokesman said. “Our business in Singapore continues to register robust year-on-year growth and remains a regional centre for management and operations for Citi globally.”
Citi recently opened its 20th branch in the city-state, a growing centre for financial services and private banking.
It was unclear how many jobs would be cut in other parts of Asia. Citi employs 55,000 people in Asia including Japan.
A second source familiar with the plan told Reuters around 150 job would be cut at Citi’s wealth management unit in Asia excluding Japan.
The source said more than 60 percent of the cuts would be in Singapore and Hong Kong. Citi’s Asian wealth management unit excluding Japan has 1,200 people.
A Citigroup spokesman in Hong Kong declined to comment on the numbers but said it expected a reduction in overall headcount in the region.
“We are repositioning our business to be more efficient and productive in the current difficult market conditions. As a result, some jobs will change and others may no longer be necessary,” the Citigroup spokesman said in a statement.
The job cuts in the wealth management business are a reversal of a trend seen until last year when rival banks were furiously poaching private bankers to expand their business in Asia, where wealth was growing at a double-digit pace.
The dramatic plunge of financial markets has prompted wealthy clients to sell stocks and shun higher-fee products for the comfort and safety of cash, private bankers and industry experts told the Reuters Wealth Management Summit last month. [ID:PEK130916]
Citi’s wealth management unit in Asia including Japan managed $288 billion worth of assets at the end of the third quarter of 2008, down 7 percent from the same period a year ago.
The unit, which includes the private bank as well as Smith Barney Australia and Citi Nikko Cordial in Japan, earned net income of $59 million in the third quarter, down 58 percent from a year ago, according to Citi data.
UBS UBSN.VX, HSBC (HSBA.L) and Citi are considered the top three players in Asia’s private banking market. (Additional reporting by Tony Munroe in Hong Kong; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Alex Richardson)