Say goodbye to business class

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Jobs aren't the only things on the block. Banks also look set to slice into some of the niceties that make working for them more pleasant.

The Telegraph today reports that Dresdner is "considering" taking a scythe to the likes of mobile telephone bills, taxis, business class travel and plush hotels.

Vikram Pandit, the newly anointed chief executive of Citigroup, also appears to be preparing to remove any remaining special treats over at Canary Wharf. According to Bloomberg, Pandit is promising to conduct an "objective and dispassionate" review of expenses and productivity across the entire bank.

Needless to say, expenses have been cut before. And needless to say, the last time this happened was around 2001.

One bulge-bracket banker says wanton disregard for saving banks' cash during the dot com boom was illustrated by profligate taxi-taking (on expenses) after the Christmas party in 2000: "You had more than 100 people on a night out in Central London and at the end of the dinner everyone took an individual taxi home."

Despite rumours of even greater recent profligacy (in the form of junior bankers travelling on private jets), an associate at another US bank in London says unnecessary expenditure is less rampant now than it was back then.

"In 2000 there were footballs all over the floor, Friday drinks, and free massages at your desk," he says. "This time, none of that has surfaced outside hedge funds."

He says this means banks will be hard pushed to cut costs without cutting bodies: "There's no fat to cut - the secretarial pool is no bigger than usual, and business class flights are already less common. The excess isn't there any more."

CIBC appears to be the latest bank to have reached this conclusion: the bank has axed 60 staff, according to the Telegraph, leaving it with fewer than 100 front-office staff in London.