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ABN Cuts Sales Force, Closes S.F. Office

ABN AMRO has let go of nearly half its U.S. taxable fixed income sales force and closed its San Francisco sales office.

ABN AMRO has let go of nearly half its U.S. taxable fixed income sales force and closed its San Francisco sales office. The office generated $10 million in revenue last year largely through the sale of credit derivatives, asset-backed and commercial mortgage-backed securities to large West Coast accounts. A former San Francisco employee says the salespeople were let go three days before they were to host a ski trip for fixed-income investors at Squaw Valley USA, a popular resort near Reno, Nev. The outing was cancelled.

Employees who were let go say John Koudounis, head of sales in New York, told them ABN AMRO will focus more on middle market and retail clients. They say he also told them that ABN AMRO plans to hire bond salesmen from Bank One as part of its pending merger with JPMorgan Chase, and would have them cover West Coast accounts from Chicago. "They can't compete with the top-tier banks and they want to adopt the LaSalle platform," says one person, referring to its ownership of LaSalle Bank, a retail bank in Chicago. Koudounis and Pat Fay, head of fixed income for North America, did not return calls. Kimberly Williams, a spokeswoman for ABN AMRO, declined to comment.

In total, four staffers were let go in San Francisco, including Debbie Kelly, a managing director. She declined to comment. Another eight or so sales professionals were cut in New York out of a taxable bond sales force that is said to have numbered less than 30 people in the U.S., according to one of those officials let go. "My guess is, they can't compete with the big boys, so why bother," speculates one headhunter. "They can pick on the little guys and do a lot better."

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