Will RBS be less ruthless than Barclays when it comes to slashing jobs at ABN?
Well, Financial News certainly seems to think so. According the paper, ABN AMRO's bankers should be egging on a hostile bid from the consortium led by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). Because while the "widespread duplication of coverage areas" between ABN and Barclays will mean instant professional death for hundreds (or thousands) of ABN employees, ABN, RBS and the other banks in its consortium will be able to coexist more sweetly.
The paper quotes one banker who predicts a "cull of immense proportions" if Barclays succeeds - particularly in the emerging markets operations of ABN. This does seem strange, given that Barclays Capital chief exec Bob Diamond went on the record last month saying that ABN's Indian and Chinese operations were particularly alluring.
But it's not that simple, according to one banking analyst. Antony Broadbent, at Sanford C. Bernstein in London, tells us ABN bankers who yearn for the success of RBS and friends could be in for a shock. "The consortium is making a hostile offer that is based on creating value, and that value will in large part come from job losses," he says.
According to Broadbent, the overlaps between RBS and ABN are very real. "Historically, RBS has been a traditional merchant bank, using its balance sheet to make loans to corporates, and Barclays Capital has been more of an underwriter of bonds and a provider of investment banking finance. But the reality is far more blurred," he says. "RBS corporate markets division has an awful lot of capital markets financing activities and Barclays has around 80bn of loans outstanding to corporates."
There may therefore be no need for ABN's bankers to feel remorse at their board's failure to recommend the RBS consortium's bid for the US arm LaSalle. Because, dare we say it, ABN bankers look set to be slashed either way.