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Canadian investment banks steadily trim staff

Four of Canada's banks ranked are among the global top 10 strongest financial institutions, according to Bloomberg Markets magazine

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

A small but steady stream of pink slips is going out at Canadian securities firms.

It's not Wall Street or London's City, where the reductions have been massive over the past year as banks cope with declining business and profits. In fact, what Canada is seeing is not even close. But there has been a regular drip of quiet, small cuts in recent weeks by investment banks operating in Canada.

At each bank, it's a small fraction of staff. The message is generally that it's a standard year-end pruning from areas that aren't performing, and the banks plan to grow in other areas.

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As such, the cuts are unlikely to signal a sudden drop in overall employment in Canada's securities business, so much as a stagnation as firms try to allocate suddenly scarcer resources to areas that are growing.

The latest to trim staff are the securities businesses of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce , Canaccord Financial and Macquarie Group.

Macquarie Group cut about half a dozen bankers from its Canadian advisory operations on Thursday. That's out of a staff of about 170 who work in capital markets and investment banking. The bankers let go worked in areas where Macquarie has had a tough time getting traction in Canada, such as telecom and financial services, said one source.

Canaccord, the country's largest independent brokerage firm, shut down a Vancouver-based group of so-called registered traders. RTs, as they are known, are associated with individual stocks in which they are market makers. The RT business has been decline as stock trading becomes more electronic. The shut-down affected a group of "less than 20," said a person with knowledge of the cut.

The wholesale unit at CIBC this week shed about 10 front-line staff from its business, with the reductions coming across all areas. That business employs about 1,200 people. Finally, about a week ago Bank of America Merrill Lynch cut 11 people out of an operation in Canada that employs roughly 500.

As those firms pare back, others are adding. Credit Suisse is hiring in Canada, and boutique Beacon Securities recently signalled it plans to hire as many as 30 people in Toronto.

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