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Morning Coffee: Staff “fall off chairs” as DBS gives surprise $18m birthday bonus

DBS gives birthday bonus

A birthday gift from DBS

It’s (almost) Chinese New Year, it’s the year of Singapore’s 50th birthday and DBS has just reached a landmark S$50bn in market capitalisation. Little wonder then that DBS chief executive Piyush Gupta chose this week to give 18,000 of his employees an unexpected extra bonus of S$1k (US$800) each – a cost to the firm of S$18m.

About 10,000 of the red-packet recipients are based in Singapore, with the rest working at the bank’s overseas offices (mainly in Southeast Asia, China and India). But staff above VP level, about 3,000 people, are missing out on the cash.

While banks typically use bonuses as retention tools, an extra $1k is unlikely to help DBS keep hold of its staff in competitive, well-paid job functions such as compliance and trade finance. “This is more about marketing DBS to consumers and giving its employer brand a small boost. It’s not about recruitment or retention – other than perhaps at a junior retail level,” says a Singapore-based recruiter.

Retention and recruitment rates at DBS and other Singapore banks are already strong – but not because of bonuses Share on twitter, which are traditionally smaller than those paid by foreign banks. Their track record of poaching from larger firms and their financial stability are among the reasons that Singaporean banks are receiving more applicants than ever this year. Still, on hearing the news about their extra bonus some “employees fell off their chairs”, the Business Times quotes Gupta as saying.

Chinese banks are the masters of paying random bonuses to staff, although Bank of Communications recently revamped its bonus scheme, making it more performance based.


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