National Bank to slash 300 jobs, including 10 vice-presidents.

MONTREAL – National Bank of Canada is cutting about 300 jobs, including 10  vice-presidents, as the country’s sixth-biggest lender shakes up its  organizational structure to tighten expenses.

The staff reductions are equivalent to roughly 2% of its workforce of 16,825  full-time employees as of the end of July.

Among those losing their jobs at the Montreal-based bank are Pat Minicucci,  who steered National’s personal and commercial banking outside Quebec. Mr.  Minicucci said in an interview with Montreal business magazine Les Affaires that  the dismissal took him by surprise.

“When I came back to the bank in 2010, it was to promote the bank outside  Quebec, to boost its presence,” he said. “We opened eight locations over two  years. I thought the effort was going well.”

Bank spokesman Claude Breton declined to discuss specific departures, but  said no member of the company’s office of the president, the group of 11 senior  managers reporting directly to chief executive Louis Vachon, was affected. He  insisted there is no specific change in the lender’s strategy.

“What we’re trying to achieve is to stay efficient and keep our agility in  the face of competitive pressure and the economic context,” Mr. Breton said. “This affects every line of business. We haven’t been [singling out any specific  business unit]. It’s a broad approach.”

Canada’s economy contracted for the first time in six months in August,  according to Statistics Canada data released Wednesday, adding weight to the  view that interest rates will remain low for the foreseeable future.

National Bank has added 3,300 jobs to its payroll since the start of its “One  client, one bank” transformation plan started in November 2008, Mr. Breton  confirmed. He said 800 positions are currently open.

Shares in National Bank rose 0.5% to $77.61 in trading Thursday afternoon on  the Toronto Stock Exchange. They’ve gained 7.6% this year, the second-best  performance of Canada’s six largest lenders after Royal Bank’s 10.7%.

National Bank is a regional bank, whose core operations are in Quebec.  Outside its home base, it is selectively picking where to grow its footprint,  Mr. Breton said, adding “clusters” of retail operations in places like Brampton,  Ont. and Winnipeg, Man.

Credit rating firm Moody’s Investors Service said last week it might cut the  credit rating of six of Canada’s biggest banks, including National, by as much  as two notches because of worries about high consumer debt levels and soaring  home prices. Moody’s also said National is among four lenders that have sizable  exposure to volatile capital markets businesses, leaving them vulnerable to the  risk of outsized losses.

Some employees are leaving Thursday but others will leave later, Mr. Breton  said. He said their responsibilities are being parceled out to other  workers.

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