The true scale of British banks’ world-dominating ambitions in the boom years and devastating collapse in the crisis is still only now becoming clear – the latest figures show the big four banks have cut 200,000 jobs since the credit crunch struck.
And another 50,000 or more are set to be cut in the next five years.
The biggest players in Britain’s most high-profile industry employed 801,000 people between them at the end of 2008.
By the end of last year that was down to 601,000, after the banks abandoned overseas projects and desperately tried to keep their heads above water back home.
Even as the economy recovers, headcount is set to keep on falling – Barclays expects to cut another 12,000 jobs this year, Lloyds is preparing to announce a new round of branch closures and RBS could cut as many as 40,000 in its next revamp.
Although HSBC in particular appeared to survive the crisis in good shape, the bank has slashed headcount as it quit working in dozens of countries.
Overall RBS has cut the most staff, losing 81,200, or 40.6 per cent, of its 2008 workforce.
HSBC was next with 58,800, or 18.8 per cent.
Lloyds Banking Group comes in third with 43,023, a fall of 32.6 per cent. That figure is compared with its 2009 headcount – the year it merged with HBOS. Previous year’s numbers are not comparable as HBOS measured staff levels differently.
And the smallest cuts came at Barclays, which shed 16,400 jobs - 10.5 per cent of its workforce.
Not all of these former staff were fired. The big banks have all sold business units to other lenders, a process which is still ongoing – for example, RBS wants to sell off its US bank Citizens, which would cut another 20,000 from the group’s headcount.
But many were sacked in the past five years, and the overall fall in headcount illustrates how sharply Britain’s global banking ambitions have had to be cut back since the crash.