Observers who presumed that Citi (300 reported layoffs), Binance ($4.3 billion penalty) or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (misconduct scandal) had the inside track on whose past week was worst: You must have tuned out before the week was over.
From Thursday onward, Britain’s three largest banks, collectively, made a case for themselves.
Barclays is considering cutting up to 2,000 jobs — mostly in the bank’s back office — as part of a strategy to save up to £1 billion ($1.25 billion), Reuters reported Thursday, citing a person with direct knowledge of the thinking.
Lloyds, meanwhile, is reviewing 2,500 roles in a cost-cutting consultation that’s expected to be shared with employees this week, the Guardian reported Friday.
And more than 4,000 HSBC customers reported they could not access online and mobile banking services through the bank’s app Friday, according to Downdetector. The outage coincided with Black Friday — arguably the year’s busiest shopping day — and, being a Friday, it was payday for some users.
“Literally the worst timing ever,” one user posted to X — formerly Twitter — according to the Guardian.
Complaints began shortly after 7 a.m. London time Friday and peaked around 9 a.m., with hundreds of customers still reporting issues by 4 p.m., according to Downdetector.
HSBC posted on X at 11 p.m. local time Friday that “services are back up and running” and apologized for the complications, which a bank spokesperson, earlier in the day, attributed to an "internal system issue," according to Reuters.
Users accessing HSBC’s mobile app saw a message Friday indicating the bank was “performing a system upgrade to bring you a better banking experience,” the Guardian reported.
Customers who were attempting to make purchases could still opt to confirm transactions through a one-time code sent via text, Bloomberg reported.
“We understand this is really frustrating for some of our customers, and we are really sorry for the inconvenience,” an HSBC spokeswoman said in a statement seen by the wire service.
Potential cuts at Barclays would primarily affect the bank’s “execution services” unit, which was created in 2017 to eliminate duplication of support functions at Barclays’ U.K. retail and international divisions — and to implement risk management updates after the 2007-08 financial crisis, Reuters reported.
Barclays could, however, choose to prioritize layoffs in other areas, the wire service’s source said.
CEO C.S. Venkatakrishnan said last month that Barclays is "evaluating material structural cost actions,” indicating the bank could launch a restructuring ahead of a Feb. 20 presentation to investors. The strategy is aimed at lifting the bank’s valuation. Barclays' share price has dropped 26% since Venkatakrishnan took over the bank’s top role in November 2021, Reuters reported.
Barclays Execution Services has seen its headcount increase to 22,300 as of last year, from roughly 20,000 five years earlier, according to the bank’s regulatory filings. That’s more than a quarter of the bank’s total staff, according to Reuters.
At the same time, annual staff costs at the unit have risen to £2 billion, from £1.8 billion, the wire service reported.
Budgets across the unit have been effectively frozen this year, and managers have been told that costs must be reduced in 2024, a second source told Reuters.
A spokesperson for the bank declined to comment to the wire service Thursday.
Barclays has seen at least three headcount reductions over the past year, beginning with 200 jobs last November, followed by a cut of roughly 100 investment bankers in April and a two-pronged effort in September, encompassing about 450 U.K. retail-banking employees and 5% of the trading division’s client-facing staff.
An effort to shave £1 billion in costs would add up to roughly 7% of the bank's annual operating expenses.
“Before today the market knew roughly how much this might cost but not what the benefits are, which now becomes clearer," Benjamin Toms, a Royal Bank of Canada analyst, told Reuters. "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.”
Cuts at Lloyds would focus on middle-management roles, including analysts and product managers, the Guardian reported.
A 2,500-person reduction would cut the bank’s headcount by roughly 5%. It’s entirely possible, though, that cuts could encompass far less, according to the outlet. A source familiar with the matter told the Guardian the bank expects to create 120 jobs in the U.K. through the process but that certain roles would change focus.
“We are evolving our business to ensure we can do more for our customers and deliver the products and services they need,” a Lloyds spokesperson told the Guardian on Friday. “To achieve this, we’re delivering one of the largest transformations in U.K. financial services, which includes reviewing how our business and technology teams work together effectively to deliver on our strategy and long-term growth.”
Lloyds warned last month that mortgage lending was creating challenges because of higher borrowing costs. The bank, however, reported a £1.9 billion increase in pretax profits in its most recent quarter, according to the Guardian.