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RETAIL BANKING | Tony Chua, Australia

Union: ANZ to downsize workforce

Hundreds of employees in danger of facing the axe as the lender trims down cost amid economic slowdown. 

Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. is preparing to cut as many as 900 jobs, according to a union that represents bank workers, as the lender trims costs in an economy where demand for mortgages has slumped to the weakest pace in three decades.

"They've certainly confirmed it will be in the hundreds," Leon Carter, national secretary of the Finance Sector Union in Melbourne, said in a telephone interview today. Kevin Foley, an ANZ Bank spokesman in Sydney, said in an e-mailed statement that "there is some belt tightening going on in response to difficult market conditions."

Australia's four biggest banks, which employ about 178,000 people, are among lenders around the world facing slower revenue growth as borrowing falls among consumers whose confidence has been battered by Europe's debt woes and market turmoil. Melbourne-based ANZ Bank today left unchanged its variable mortgage interest rate, citing the "subdued state of credit demand."

ANZ Bank "said to us that due to cost pressures and expectations that revenue is going to be difficult to generate over the course of this year, they're going to embark on a fairly aggressive cost-saving regime," Carter said.

Among Australia's so-called big four lenders, ANZ Bank employees individually delivered the least profit, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and company reports. ANZ Bank made A$109,424 ($113,013) in net income from each employee in the year ended September 2011. That compared with A$138,819 at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, A$185,379 at Westpac Banking Corp., and A$116,900 at National Australia Bank Ltd., the data show.

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