DBS hires 1,220 as Singaporean banks boost pay

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DBS hires 1,220 as Singaporean banks boost pay

A 12% rise

As global firms like Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse announce sweeping plans to slash staff costs, Singaporean banks have been hiring in the hundreds, and paying their employees a lot more money.

DBS, OCBC and UOB have now all reported their third-quarter results – and DBS in particular has been recruiting in big numbers over the past 12 months. It had 21,898 staff at the end of Q3 this year compared with 20,678 at the same point last year – that’s 1,220 more people, a 5.9% rise. As the table below shows, OCBC hired 470 and UOB added 308 staff over that period, taking their respective headcounts to 29,603 and 25,129.

The new figures support what we’ve been hearing from finance recruiters in Singapore throughout the year: job vacancies are rising as the three banks expand regionally and pick up people leaving firms like RBS and Standard Chartered, which are cutting staff in Asia.

Although the Q3 results do not break down headcount by division or job function, a source close to DBS says the bank has focused much of its recent hiring on IT, private banking, corporate banking and compliance roles. Investment banking at DBS appears not such a good place to work in right now – income in that department slumped by 36% year-on-year, in contrast to 21% and 14% rises in the firm’s wealth and brokerage units respectively.

Salary spikes at DBS, OCBC and UOB

Singaporean banks aren’t just recruiting, they are also boosting compensation. We divided their staff costs for the first nine months of this year by their total headcounts to work out their average spend per employee. And we compared these figures with the same period in 2014 to produce the following table:

With its larger focus on institutional clients, DBS offers better pay per head than its local rivals – but year-on-year all three firms have made similar double-digit increases to their staff costs. UOB cities employee incentives to celebrate its 80th and Singapore’s 50th birthdays, while OCBC just attributes the rise to “higher base salaries”.

In broader terms, however, the compensation spikes suggest the local job market is still suffering from skill shortages, especially in the type of middle-office and relationship-management jobs that make up much of the current hiring. And the flip side of Singaporean banks’ growing ability to poach from global competitors is the need to pay salaries on a similar level.

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