Challenging Times Impact the Financial Services Industry in a Slowing Economy

Article excerpt

Prior to the destruction of the World, Trade Center, the financial services industry was already experiencing a slowdown. The bust of numerous Internet start-ups in late 2000 and early 2001 led to less interest in the industry from venture capitalists, which in turn, dried up the lucrative business of managing initial public offerings at investment banks. The decline in the stock market, led largely by technology companies, made things even worse. Earnings at these companies slowed, and in some eases declined, lessening investors' appe-tites for investing. Since the September 11 attacks on the trade towers, which were located in the heart of New York City's financial district, getting a job in the industry has become more challenging-not to mention keeping one. Industry leaders such as American Express Co., Citigroup Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co. and others have offered buyouts to employees and fired workers. These events have left the industry leaner and companies pickier about who gets hired.

The financial services industry includes commercial banks, securities firms, insurance companies and diversified financial companies that help manage and increase savings and investments for individuals, organizations, companies or employees. Companies in the industry offer a variety of products and services and it's becoming more common to see companies, which once specialized in selling only insurance, to sell financial products such as savings accounts and mutual funds.

The top commercial bank in 2000 based on revenue, according to Fortune magazine's annual survey, is J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. with $60.1 billion in sales as a result of the combination of investment bank J.P. Morgan and commercial bank Chase Manhattan. In second place is Bank of America Corp. with $57.7 billion in revenue and third is Wells Fargo & Co. with $27.6 billion in sales.

The biggest securities firm is Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. based on $45.4 billion in revenue in 2000, according to Fortune. Merrill Lynch & Co. ranks second with $44.9 billion in sales and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is third with $33 billion in revenue.

The largest savings and loan, according to Fortune is Washington Mutual Inc. with $15.8 billion in revenue, the second largest is Golden State Bancorp with $4.5 billion in sales and the third biggest is Golden West Financial Corp. with $3.9 billion in sales.

Among publicly traded property and casualty insurers, American International Group Inc. ranks number one with $45.9 billion in sales, according to Fortune. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is number two with $33.9 billion in sales and Allstate Corp. is number three with $29.1 billion in sales. In the publicly traded life and health insurance industry, MetLife Inc. is the biggest with $31.9 billion in revenue and American General Corp. is next with $11.1 billion in sales. The top three is rounded out by AFLAC, Inc. with $9.7 billion in sales.

The top property-casualty mutual insurer--companies whose structures make policyholders stakeholders in time company--is State Farm Insurance Cos. with $47.9 billion in sales. Second is Liberty Mutual Insurance Group with $16.4 billion in sales and third is Auto Owners Insurance with $2,6 billion, according to Fortune. The biggest life and health mutual insurers are TIAACREF Life Insurance Co., Prudential Insurance Co. of America and New York Life Insurance Co. with $38.1 billion, $22.8 billion and $21.5 billion in revenue, respectively.

General Electric Cos. is often connected to its production of power generators, light bulbs or its NBC television network, but it's also got a large diversified financial services segment. Excluding GE, the largest diversified financial services company is Citigroup Inc. with $111.8 billion in revenue, according to Fortune. Fannie Mae is the next largest with $44.1 billion in revenue and Freddie Mac is the third largest with $30 billion in sales. …