Traders and technologists were among the most satisfied staff at UOB in the first half, even as the bank’s profits tumbled and its headcount inched down.
UOB reported net profits of S$1.56bn in H1, 30% lower than a year ago, as it set aside more allowances in anticipation of a further deterioration in the macroeconomic outlook due to the pandemic.
The firm’s headcount was 26,495 at end-June, down 1.4% (or 377 people) from end-December. Its financial report does not explain the small decline, although recruiters attribute it to natural attrition rather than redundancies. UOB has pledged not to make layoffs during the pandemic.
There were some bright spots at UOB during the first half. The bank’s traders helped its Global Markets division generate a profit of S$288m for the half, up 76% year-on-year. “Income benefitted from the sharp downward movement in interest rates during the early part of this year”, according to the bank’s H1 financial results.
UOB is far from the only firm to make hay while financial markets are volatile during the pandemic – US banks have also seen their Q2 trading profits soar. But UOB’s results provide further evidence that the upward trend in markets applies as much to Asia as it does globally. Earlier today, DBS reported that profit in its Treasury Markets unit rose 89% year-on-year to S$378m. At Credit Suisse, revenue from markets in Asia was up 54% year-on-year for Q2. And at Standard Chartered, which makes most of its profit from Asia, markets income grew 16% for the quarter, with rates surging 149%.
Meanwhile, UOB’s technologists will be pleased to hear that in the first half the bank “remained committed to investing in technology to strengthen product capabilities, enhance customer experience and improve productivity”.
As at DBS, UOB’s tech teams have been kept busy as businesses and consumers use its digital systems in increasing numbers. Wee Ee Cheong, UOB’s chief executive officer, provided some eyewatering statistics to support this during his H1 results presentation on Thursday. There was an 8.9-fold year-on-year increase in corporate transactions on the firm’s PayNow platform in Singapore during the first half, for example.
Recruiters tell us that UOB has been adding to its tech headcount in Singapore. About 41% of the bank’s current vacancies are in technology, according to UOB’s careers site.
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