LONDON (Reuters) – Investment banks shed jobs at the fastest pace in six years in a first quarter of 2020, even as the coronavirus pandemic sparked a spike in volatility and pushed earnings to a crawl. five-year high, data released Wednesday by research firm Coalition showed.

While investment banks have benefited from the near-term increase in trade, they are expected to be hit hard by a global recession triggered by the COVID-19 crisis and have already imposed hiring freezes.

In Britain, for example, the number of finance professionals looking for new jobs increased by more than 40% in the first quarter compared to the last three months of 2019.

Coalition data showed banks’ revenues from fixed income, currencies and commodities had their strongest first quarter since 2015, rising 20% ​​to $22.7 billion, as the financial turmoil linked to the coronavirus crisis has caused a surge in trade.

Investment banking divisions, which raise debt and capital for their clients, generated a 7% increase in revenue, while revenue from operations involving equity products rose 3%, according to data from Coalition, which tracks 12 of the world’s largest investment banks.

But despite the upturn in activity, the banks continued their constant efforts to cut costs and reduce staff by an average of 5%.

The equity divisions suffered from the cuts during the quarter with a 10% drop in full-time front office staff.

The cash equity businesses of investment banks — serving investors who buy and sell stocks — have struggled for years with declining trading volumes, margin pressures and costly regulations.

Macquarie Group’s exit last year MQG.AX trading in European and US equities illustrated these pressures.

Below is Coalition’s chart showing an overall 5% headcount reduction for the 12 global investment banks it covers:

(Graphic: Job cuts in Investment Bank IMAGE link: )

Report by Julien Ponthus. Editing by Jane Merriman