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Big banks hire 19K in first half as demand for loans surge during cornavirus

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The biggest U.S. and European banks added 19,000 people to their payrolls in the first half of the year as demand for loans and other services surged during the pandemic and planned staff cuts were largely put on hold.

Eight of the top 15 firms increased headcount this year through June, while only four reduced it. Three lenders’ staff levels were unchanged from the end of 2019. Barclays had the largest increase, with more than 7,000 additions, and HSBC had the biggest reduction, cutting almost 3,000 positions.

For the past decade, big banks have consistently cut jobs following the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing global recession. The firms’ recent hiring marks a contrast to the job cuts by companies across other industries globally amid the pandemic. While the additions show the biggest banks are in a much stronger position during this crisis, it might prove fleeting as job-cut moratoriums announced in March and April are lifted in the third or fourth quarters.

Barclays, for example, said it would halt firings until the end of September. Wells Fargo, which had the second-biggest addition of employees in the first half of the year, has said it will embark on a serious cost-cutting mission once the crisis eases a bit, without giving a clear time frame. In June, HSBC said it resumed job cuts after a three-month freeze. The company announced in February a plan to cut 35,000 jobs over three years.

Yet some of the added positions are here to stay. Citigroup said in January it would hire 2,500 coders for its investment-banking division as the company beefs up information technology. Bank of America planned to go ahead with its 1,000 campus hires this year while also investing further in technology and operations. And Barclays has added positions in investment banking and credit cards, where it expects further growth.

Bloomberg News