Slowed trading activity was behind Fiserv Inc.s recent decision to close offices and lay off or reassign one-third of the people in its securities processing group, the company said.
Contributing to the slowdown was the loss of Citicorp Investment Services as a customer of Fiservs correspondent services unit. That unit is to be merged with with Fiserv Securities Inc., the Brookfield Wis., data processor said Wednesday. As a result, 300 of the units 900 jobs will be lost or reassigned as offices in Denver and Boca Raton, Fla., are closed.
Looming large in that decision was the recent slowdown in trading activity, said Bob Beriault, president and chief operating officer of Fiserv Securities Group. The job reductions and reassignments are the product of trading volume being down, he said.
The loss of one of its largest customers did not help Fiservs situation. Today, Citicorp Investment Services in Long Island City, N.Y., will begin transferring broker clearing responsibilities from Fiserv to its sister firm, Salomon Smith Barney Inc. Fiserv had been executing orders and other clearing and maintenance functions for Citicorp Investment customers for more than a decade.
The decision was made to put the best resources together and broaden the product base of both companies and go forward from there, said Larry Donato, the president of Fiserv Securities. This makes a much stronger marketing presence, and bringing the talent together from two different platforms makes a consolidated, stronger unit, as opposed to each having its own niche.
The job cuts were mostly a result of the consolidation, he said, but a loss as big as that of Citicorp Investment is a factor in the same way that market conditions are a factor. Fiserv does not disclose the volume it gets from any single customer, but Citicorp Investments was on the larger end, Mr. Donato said.
The integration of the correspondent services unit should be completed by September. Fiserv Securities Inc. will be headquartered in Philadelphia.
Citigroup said it expects that the move away from Fiserv will promote greater synergy between Salomon Smith Barney and Citicorp Investment. Bringing it in-house gives the bank a common platform for both, said Citigroup spokesman Mark Rogers. It allows us to offer the products and services from Salomon Smith Barney through Citicorp Investment and makes it much easier to make adjustments to them across the board.
Craig A. Peckham, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. in New York, agreed that reduced trading volume is a greater concern for Fiserv than the loss of a single customer, even a large one. No customer of Fiservs accounts for any more than a few percent of revenue, he said.
But the securities processing business has been challenged for growth for several quarters now, Mr. Peckham said. The market necessitated a consolidation of that business to save costs. Fiservs challenge now is to increase revenues amidst a market where the securities processing business has not rebounded, he said.
Norman Jaffe, managing director of Fox-Pitt Kelton Inc. in New York, said that Fiserv management is anticipating a continued slowdown in securities processing. Management is being aggressive in trying to right-size the business unit to better balance revenues and expenses, he said.
Fiservs stock closed Friday at $53.77, down .5% from the previous Fridays close.
The company said it is reaffirming its projections of $460 million to $470 million of revenues and 39 to 40 cents per share of profits in the second quarter. The latter projection is consistent with analysts second-quarter earnings estimates of 39 to 41 cents per share, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.
Fiserv is projecting earnings per share of $1.60 to $1.61 for this year.