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Memo from staff to banks: you can stuff your current salary rises, we want even more money

Compensation levels for back and middle office staff at financial institutions in Singapore are rising, according to a new survey, but it seems the extra money just isn’t enough. Employees have greater expectations when it comes to their earnings.

The report from recruitment firm Robert Half found that 52 per cent of respondents enjoyed salary rises over the last 12 months. For their 2009 work, 71 per cent received a bonus and 78 per cent think they will get one for this year.

Compared with their counterparts in Hong Kong, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, Singaporean firms were the first to increase salaries and also raised them by the most.

But here’s the catch: despite the pay hikes, a significant number of respondents (46 per cent) believe their remuneration is neither fair nor in line with the market.

“Salary expectations among employees are now much higher as the hiring market becomes increasingly robust and the talent crunch deepens,” comments Tim Hird, director of Robert Half Singapore.

The discontent simmering in Singapore’s back and middle office may lead to retention problems for firms that do not properly address pay issues with their staff.

But what has caused the problem? Many financial institutions froze or cut salaries in late 2008 and 2009, so employees feel they have missed an additional 12 to 18 months worth of increases, on top of what they are due this year.

Keeping it real

However, Dr Ernest Kan, president of the Institute of Certified Public Accounts of Singapore, says candidates need to be realistic about salary packages, even as the employment market moves in their favour.

He advises to always benchmark your role and make an educated decision about how much you are really worth. “It’s easy when there’s lots of good economic news for employees to jump on this and think they are being underpaid, so benchmark,” Kan warns.

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Comments (5)

  1. Those in Operations, Financial Control and Product control must understand their jobs can be easily relocated to Philippines or India. A (small) no of investment banks have been operating (very) well on such a model for a few years already.

  2. did the staff in those small no of investment banks tell you of the tethering problems they experienced with/ after transferring those functions to Philippines and India? i think not.

    relocated? yes. easily? hahah.

    the world is round.
    this is nothing compared to banks that so easily and swiftly ‘restructure’ headcounts at the drop of a pin, or freeze/ cut pay.

    remember its always abt bottomline, talent and profit in tat infinity loop.

  3. The overheating of compensation levels in Singapore is in line with global-warming, it has now dawn on firms to replace (those once viable) BACK Office headcounts from Singapore to those locations that ‘Ana’ had mentioned; likewise for MIDDLE Office headcounts, but towards metro-locations such as Hong Kong and Tokyo instead.
    As salaries have risen until hiring managers could feel that for about 20% more compensation, a headcount can be placed in these metro-locations; this MIDDLE Office headcount can then effectively service the FRONT Office ‘on-site’, but why do decision makers still choose Singapore?
    Singapore itself has grabbed its fair share of decision-making headcounts, these honchos relocated to Singapore and eventually decided to grow their current turf (who wouldn’t); it is their headcount that amplify Singapore salary levels, nevertheless their willingness to continue Singapore operating headcounts depend on the strength of their take-home currency: SGD?

  4. Frankly …we can outsource I bankers jobs to mars or pluto if they prefer as well … can’t say many i banks have been opertaing on this model … but am sure the general economy would be better off !! A

  5. Singapore rates are still very low, especially given the cost of living here. Basically banks pay Indian pay scales in first world pricewise country.

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