Sunday, February 21, 2016

Wall Street has had a disastrous year


Portia Crowe


Wikimedia Commons

The numbers are in, and it's official: Wall Street had a horrible 2015.

Poor trading results and low client activity in the second half of the year led to an overall drop in revenues for Wall Street banks.

That's according to the data-analytics company Coalition, which just released its annual index of investment bank performance.

They tracked performance in key business divisions at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, Societe Generale and UBS.

Fixed income divisions disappointed in particular, as corporate bond trading revenues fell more than 30%.

Jobs were lost too, with headcount down around 800.

The bad news for Wall Street is that 2016 looks like it could be even worse. JPMorgan analyst Kian Abouhossein has forecast a 19% drop in fixed income revenues and a 16% drop in equities revenues in 2016 versus 2015.

Here's the breakdown.

Full-year revenues were down 3% from 2014 for Wall Street banks across the board, with a sharp drop in fixed income, currencies and commodities (FICC) revenues only partially offset by an increase in equities revenue.


Revenues came in at $160.2 billion for 2015, down from $164.6 billion in 2014 and $187.9 billion back in 2010.

Coalition attributed the disappointing results to poor trading results and low client activity in the second half of the year.

The nightmare fixed income division was down 9% for the year, with credit trading revenues down more than 30% to $12.4 billion.


Fixed income, currencies, and commodities revenues were down significantly, coming in at $69.9 billion for the year versus $76.7 billion for 2014.

Credit was the worst performing product in fixed income. Coalition said it was impacted by poor client activity, trading underperformance, and widening spreads. Distressed credit and CLOs performed the worst.

What's notable is that 2015 was the third consecutive year in which FICC revenues declined.

They hit highs in 2010, at $109.1 billion, and 2012, at $102.7, but those highs don't appear to be coming back anytime soon.

Equities revenues were actually up for the year, coming in at $49.8 billion, led by increased revenues in equity derivatives and prime brokerage.


Equities revenues were up 10%, coming in at $49.8 billion versus $45.2 billion in 2014.

Equity derivatives and prime brokerage services performed particularly well in 2015, while futures and options declined marginally and cash equities showed mixed performance.

Asia outperformed regionally, especially in the first half of the year, according to Coalition.

In the investment banking division, revenues were down 5% for the year. They were down 16% in equity capital markets and 12% in debt capital markets, while mergers and acquisitions units had a stand out year.


There was actually a surge in mergers and acquisitions activity and revenue in 2015, especially in the healthcare, tech, and energy sectors.

But that was offset by weak performance in equity capital markets, which were hurt by the drop in IPO activity, and debt capital markets, where underperformance in high-yield bonds and leveraged finance dragged revenues down.

Wall Street banks shed some employees, too, with 800 jobs lost in fixed income.


Front-office headcount was down 2% for 2015, coming in at 55,400 versus 56,200 in 2014.

Fixed income divisions were down 4% for the year, while headcount was down 1% in investment banking divisions and flat in equities.

Notably, headcount at Wall Street investment banks has declined for five consecutive years, from 70,100 people back in 2010.



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