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Sun 19 Jun 2016 02:02 PM

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BNP Paribas Middle East COO leaves amid global retrenchment

Bahrain-based Christophe Mukerjee is expected to return to France as bank shrinks global operations by 12 percent

BNP Paribas Middle East COO leaves amid global retrenchment
French bank BNP Paribas. (Philippe huguen/AFP/Getty Images)

The Middle East COO of BNP Paribas has left his post amid a huge restructuring at the French bank that is expected to see up to 150 jobs lost in the region.

Christophe Mukerjee, Bahrain-based COO for Middle East & Africa, is understood to have announced his departure in the past month and intends to return to France where he is from.

Mukerjee has been in post for 18 months. He is expected to take up a role at BNP Paribas’ Paris headquarters in due course, although this will not happen immediately.

His departure comes as the bank executes a plan to shrink its global operations by 12 percent by 2019. The target has been reduced from 20 percent when the strategy was first revealed in the press at the end of last year.

However, Mukerjee is not understood to have been among staff placed in a redundancy programme at the end of last year.

BNP Paribas officially announced the strategy in February while unveiling its 2015 annual results. The plan entails cost savings across the bank’s corporate and institutional banking (CIB) division in response to industry challenges and higher costs resulting from upcoming regulatory requirements, such as the introduction of Basel 3 fund management and liquidity rules.

In the announcement, the bank said it was targeting a “gross reduction of risk-weighted assets by €20 billion (€10 billion net of reinvestments)” by 2019.

It added that the target “is to be fine-tuned and extended to 2020 within the group’s upcoming 2017-2020 plan”.

Arabian Business revealed in December that the plan would see France’s largest bank close its Dubai office and cut at least one-third of employees at its Middle East headquarters in Bahrain by June.

At the time, around 120 of the circa 351 staff in the Bahrain capital of Manama had been placed into a formal redundancy programme. A handful of those staff are understood to have been let go in March, while another tranche are expected to leave this month.

The process will continue until 2019, with some staff redeployed elsewhere in the business instead of losing their jobs entirely.

The decision affects back-office staff, including those in finance, IT and HR, as well as those in the capital markets operation, payments, trade and preferential data.

The redundancies affect the whole of the regional business, but the Dubai and Bahrain offices have been hit the hardest. Those set to lose their jobs include a fair mix of nationalities, Arabian Business understands. There is to be no impact on branch numbers or functions over the course of the three-year transformation plan, the bank has insisted.

Mukerjee was not among staff identified as ‘at risk’ at the start of the transformation programme. It is understood his replacement has been identified but not yet made public. The bank declined to comment on the news.

BNP Paribas Middle East & Africa has CIB operations across Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE, as well as Morocco and South Africa.

Global CIB revenues rose 13.2 percent to €11.6 billion ($13 billion) last year, with pre-tax profit up 17.9 percent to €3.3 billion ($3.7 billion), according to the bank’s annual results.

Yann Gérardin, head of corporate and institutional banking at BNP Paribas, told analysts in February that CIB now had a “solid and profitable platform ready to act out of strength”.

He said the aim of the 2016-2019 transformation plan would be to grow CIB revenues by at least 4 percent each year, while reducing the cost-to-income ratio by eight points generating an additional €1.6 billion ($1.8 billion) in pre-tax profit compared with 2015.

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