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RBS to cut hundreds of US jobs ahead of new Fed rules

Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, Britain’s largest state-owned lender, will eliminate hundreds of U.S. jobs as it shrinks its mortgage-trading business ahead of stiffer capital rules.

The bank will cut its mortgage-trading business by two- thirds within the next 12 to 18 months, Scott Eichel, head of securitised products and credit in the U.S, said today in a phone interview. Edinburgh-based RBS will shift focus to other types of asset-backed securities as well as commercial real estate and client financing, he said.

“These mortgage units won’t be able to produce what they just did in what I think has been some of the golden years,” Eichel said. Now, “it’s back to normality, and normality is origination, distribution and financing business.”

The cuts mostly will affect people in mortgage-backed-securities trading in Stamford, Connecticut, and the bank will cut staff in its U.S. special situations group, said a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the decision isn’t public. The firm is scaling back in agency residential mortgage-backed securities and non-agency MBS, and no affected employees have been notified, the person said.

The reductions come ahead of Federal Reserve rules that will require big foreign banks to hold more capital in U.S units. The Fed approved the capital standards this year for foreign banks with at least US$50 billion of assets in the U.S. The stricter rules take effect in 2016.

‘Ultimate Goals’

“As the financial services industry continues to evolve so must RBS’s U.S. corporate and institutional banking business,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “Our ultimate goals are to enhance our client focus and connectivity, simplify our operating model, mitigate risk and reduce cost.”

The Financial Times reported the planned job cuts earlier today.

RBS, which posted its largest annual loss since 2008 last year, is being weighed down by legal bills and risky assets five years after receiving the biggest bank bailout in history. Chief Executive Officer Ross McEwan last year created a so-called bad bank to house the lender’s riskiest assets and announced plans to scale back the investment-banking operation to focus on the U.K. consumer and business bank.

Senior debt traders and salesmen have left for rival firms as the lender shrinks its investment bank and faces political pressure to reduce bonuses. The lender, which is planning to cut costs by £5 billion (US$8.4 billion) over the next four years, planned to pay employees £576 million in bonuses for 2013, a 15 per cent cut in the pool from the previous year.