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Investment Banks Just Had Their Worst First Quarter Since the Financial Crisis

Morgan Stanley is among the i-banks tracked by analytics firm Coalition.Morgan Stanley is among the i-banks tracked by analytics firm Coalition.
Morgan Stanley is among the i-banks tracked by analytics firm Coalition.Photograph by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/GettyImages

Revenue at the world’s 12 largest investment banks fell 25% in the first quarter from a year ago as economic uncertainty and investor caution led to the slowest start since the financial crisis, a survey showed on Tuesday.

Investment banks have been hit by a steep decline in oil prices, near-zero interest rates and worries about China’s economy, which triggered a wave of volatility in financial markets at the start of the year, normally the most lucrative period when investors put their money to work.

Trading in fixed income, currencies and commodities (FICC) divisions, which are particularly exposed to economic conditions, declined 28% year-on-year to $17.8 billion, data from industry analytics firm Coalition shows.

Since 2011, revenues in FICC are now down 49% and headcount in that area is down 33%, the data shows. Credit and securitization have experienced particularly steep revenue declines of 62% and 74% respectively during that period.

Coalition tracks Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, Societe Generale and UBS.

 

The downturn comes as banks are having to comply with new regulations forcing them to hold more capital, reduce risk-taking and scale back market-making activities, all of which are squeezing liquidity from an array of capital markets.

Other divisions proved equally dismal, with revenues down across the board. In banks’ equity businesses, a bright spot last year, revenues were down 20% year-on-year in the first quarter to $11.7 billion as investors reduced risk appetite.

Since 2011, revenues have fallen on aggregate by 11% in equities with headcount declining 12%, the data shows.

Investment banking divisions (IBD), which advise on mergers and acquisitions (M&A), and equity and debt underwriting saw a 25% decline compared to last year to $7.8 billion as reduced deal volumes and a slump in capital markets activities weighed.

Equity capital markets (ECM) activity plunged 58% year-on-year to $1.1 billion, after a dearth of new listings in choppy markets. Since 2011, ECM revenues are now down 59%.

IBD revenues have fallen 23% since 2011 on aggregate, with headcount dropping 14%.