Everyone in Asia is advised to gird their loins.
Bowing to increased competition and weaker markets, investment banks are lowering expectations and cutting costs in Asia, a region that has been a crucial source of growth for the industry in recent years. Senior bankers in Hong Kong, who are emerging from several weeks of tense budget meetings for 2012, say they are feeling pressure from their bosses to justify heavy investment across the region as trading volumes there and around the world shrink and banks struggle with tighter regulations, the fallout from Europe and weak economies world-wide. Some banks including Nomura Holdings Inc., Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. have already laid off small numbers of workers in Asia. Bankers are bracing for bigger cuts once bonuses are paid this month, especially if markets remain sluggish. At Morgan Stanley, a bigger round of layoffs is expected in the coming weeks...The cutbacks are unlikely to be across the board. As banks reassess their strategies, they will look to protect those employees focused on China, whose share of the shrinking Asian fee pot is growing, senior bankers said. But opportunities in India have been disappointing, and some are already cutting back, while business in Japan remains sluggish.