Gadgets add complexity to brutal bank layoffs

Tue Oct 23, 2012 8:56am EDT
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By Sarah White

LONDON (Reuters) - In the high-tech, gadget-addicted world of investment banking, layoffs are becoming more complex and brutal as firms try to stop sensitive data leaving with employees.

Sackings are usually swift, with bankers escorted out, a few belongings thrown into boxes and Blackberries and phones disabled the minute they get their marching orders.

But weeks of trawling through old emails and planning software lockdowns now precede and follow the job cuts that are happening in thousands, adding a new layer of indignity to the process.

"It used to be that you would take away any access to the building and maybe prevent someone from lifting their Rolodex," said Stephen Bonner, a former Barclays executive now a partner in the information protection business at consultancy KPMG.

"Now there is extensive compliance, with for example reviews of the last six months of email activity, for signs of a large amount of material being sent to personal accounts."

Companies have to make sure they can block access to work systems that employees may be using on their own computers, while occasionally calling in lawyers to ask fired staff to destroy data they may have already downloaded.

The crackdown has taken on new relevance after a series of banking scandals such as the rigging of Libor interest rates. Records of emails and voice mails underpinned a case by regulators against Barclays for manipulating Libor, which was settled in June.

Layoffs in banking have long been a particularly brutal affair, justified by firms because of the sensitive information handled by deal advisers and traders.   Continued...