Making good on a promise to scale back Wall Street-type businesses, Citicorp said Wednesday that it would eliminate 100 jobs in its mortgage securities area.
The move follows a severe downturn in collateralized mortgage obligations. The market peaked at $570 billion of issuances in 1993 and is expected to be half that big this year, according to Junaid Rubbani, managing director and head of capital markets at Citicorp.
The job cuts affect people in sales, trading, and underwriting of collateralized mortgage obligations at Citicorp Securities Inc., New York. The cuts will eliminate more than half of Citi's mortgage securities trading staff.
Citicorp will try to find jobs for those laid off elsewhere in the company, said spokeswoman Amy Dates.
Though the cuts will reduce Citicorp Securities' mortgage and fixed- income group by 33%, Mr. Rubbani said they do not presage further reduction of the capital markets staff, which has 900 members.
Cit has decided to focus on "areas where we can see an adequate return on our equity capital," he said. "We're trying to pick areas where we can make long-term investments." '
However, he added, "there are always unexpected turns in the market, and you just have to adjust to them."
The cutbacks followed statements by Citicorp chairman John Reed about the $260 billion-asset bank's priorities. He told banking analysts in February that Citicorp would emphasize international consumer banking and credit cards, which have yielded most of its profits, and would be pickier in choosing corporate and wholesale businesses.
Citibank would focus on areas "where we bring a sustainable advantage," Mr. Reed said. "There's clearly overcapacity in the banking business, and we don't want to be a me-too-product bank."
The chief executive added that Citicorp had no interest "in becoming an investment bank or a Wall Street house."
Analysts were not surprised by the latest cost-cutting move, and seemed largely pleased by it. Perrin Long of Brown Brothers Harriman said it made perfect sense, since revenues and profits in the CMO area had fallen off industrywide. "When you have an area that's not making money, you cut back in it," he said.
Tanya Azarchs, director of financial institutions research at Standard & Poor's, said, "Everyone is trying to be more efficient to deal with the drop-off in investment banking business.
"The area that is being particularly hard hit is trading," she said. "John Reed said he wants to emphasize the bank's global franchise. I just see it as a part of a broader industry trend."
Susan Roth of Bear Stearns pointed out that the careful assessment and carving out of businesses by Citicorp is a new and sensible strategy for a giant banking company that historically tried to be "all things to all people."
"I would not be surprised to see Citicorp downsizing in its domestic corporate finance business to manage the expense base and pick their spots," Ms. Roth said. "It's very new for this company to pick its spots."
St. Louis-based Citicorp Mortgage Inc., which handles mortgage originations and servicing, has been left untouched.