Despite reports that Royal Bank of Scotland could cut up to 7,000 jobs as part of its integration of ABN Amro, the bank would not comment on any possible IT job losses.
An RBS spokesperson confirmed the bank is investigating possible job cuts within its wholesale banking division, but would not be drawn for further comment on whether cuts would impact the bank's manufacturing business, the unit that contains IT and back office functions.
"Since the acquisition of ABN Amro we have consistently said that as we brought our two wholesale banking businesses together there would be job losses over the course of the next two years. This is unfortunate, but inevitable,” said an RBS spokesperson.
“We committed to and have engaged in regular dialogue with our staff and their representative bodies throughout integration and this commitment still stands.”
RBS said it was assessing each business to decide an “appropriate size” considering the current tough economic conditions.
But analysts and media have speculated on how IT would be affected by the mammoth integration of the companies that is now taking place. RBS’ £48 billion acquisition of ABN Amro last year, alongside Santander and Fortis, is the largest deal in European banking history.
The Financial Times reported that the bank was expected to start writing to managers as part of a consultation process over planned redundancies. A works council, comprising managers from each business unit, would be involved.
Union Unite said it had received no more details on which staff might be affected.
Graham Goddard, deputy secretary at Unite, said: “Rumours this week about an additional 7,000 job losses within RBS Global Markets as part of the ongoing ABN Amro integration are deeply alarming for staff and Unite will be raising these concerns with management.”
Chris Skinner, chief executive at think-tank Balatro, told Computerworld UK that getting better value out of IT and other functions would be bound to feature highly on RBS’ lists of priorities. “The whole point of any bank merger is you’re going to get efficiencies,” he said.
But unlike RBS’ acquisition of NatWest in 2000, where the buyer moved NatWest swiftly onto its own systems, the next steps for integrating ABN Amro's systems and people were not as obvious, he said. “This time you’ve got two global banks involved, and on top of that Santander and Fortis will have their own strategies.”
Skinner added RBS was “under pressure to deliver quickly to shareholders”, following the £12 billion rights issue it made last week in an effort to bolster its balance sheet.
While there has been talk of consolidating systems, there were not that many obvious areas where this could happen, he said, considering the different set-up of the banks and their different locations. RBS would be likely instead to drive the best efficiencies it can from current systems, he said.
Last year, when RBS’ plans to acquire ABN Amro were first announced, there was speculation that the three-way split of ABN Amro's business by its new owners - Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Fortis - could simplify the IT integration task. Analysts said that each new owner would be able to make its own plans for the units it acquired, instead of trying to find a common system that fit with all four parties involved.
IT services strategies are another major area likely to come into question. ABN has a £640m desktop outsourcing deal with EDS to cover its wholesale clients, as well as a £1.2bn multi-supplier infrastructure and application development outsourcing deal with Accenture, IBM, Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services and Patni. RBS has its own cheque processing deal with EDS.
Skinner said that even though ABN Amro had made more wide-ranging use of outsourcing, it was unlikely RBS would try to bring in-house ABN Amro’s outsourced operations. “I don’t think RBS has that view. It’s far more to do with efficiency and cost outcome for them.”