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The Singaporean bank where staff costs shot up 13% in just one year

Higher at UOB?

Higher at UOB?

UOB’s annual results, released on Tuesday, show that it’s still getting more expensive to employ banking staff in Singapore, even as economic growth slows and the city state experiences 14 straight months of negative inflation.

UOB is far from the most generous employer in Singaporean financial services (it made about 36% of its 2015 profits from retail banking, a comparatively poorly paid sector). But its 2015 staff costs per head – total employee expenses (such as salaries and bonuses) divided by total headcount – still shot up 13% on 2014, from S$72,974 to S$82,478.

The bank did spend S$7.5m last year giving some of its employees a S$1k bonus to commemorate Singapore’s 50th birthday, but factoring out this one-off cost only reduces the 2015 per-employee figure to S$82,178.

Total headcount at UOB remained almost flat year on year (it employed 25,092 people in 2015 and 25,009 in 2014), suggesting that the extra money was mainly spent on retaining people rather than recruiting them.

Although European banks such as Standard Chartered and Barclays are cutting jobs in Singapore, UOB still faces the constant threat of domestic rivals DBS and OCBC poaching its staff, so its compensation must remain competitive as a result. Local banks also employ a large amount of people in talent-short functions such as corporate banking and compliance, which helps to fuel salary inflation.

The chart below, compiled from previous UOB annual reports, also shows how dramatically the cost of employing banking professionals in Singapore has risen since the start of the decade. In 2010 UOB was spending just S$57,359 on its average employee – 43.4% less than last year.




Image credit: vidalidali, iStock Editorial, Thinkstock

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