If you thought banks in Singapore were firing rather than hiring in 2015, you’d only be half right.
Just as Standard Chartered and RBS were culling jobs in the city state, Singapore-headquartered banks were boosting their ranks. DBS, OCBC and UOB combined employed 1,272 more people at the end of 2015 than they did 12 months previously, according to their full-year financial results published earlier this month.
The hiring, however, was not spread evenly across the three firms, with DBS alone taking on 921 extra employees (a 4.4% increase over 2014). OCBC added a respectable 335, while UOB’s headcount stayed almost flat, as the table below shows.
Although the firms don’t break down their headcount by division, there has been “little hiring” in investment banking, says a recruiter in Singapore who asked not to be named. This is in line with the 25% year-on-year fall in investment banking income suffered by DBS in 2015. Southeast Asia investment banking volumes also declined last year (by 3% in M&A, 33% in ECM, and 5% in DCM), according to Dealogic.
By contrast, we understand that both DBS and OCBC (via its Bank of Singapore subsidiary) have been adding relationship managers to their private banks. Wealth management revenues at DBS increased 18% year on year, according to its 2015 results, an indication that division head Tan Su Shan’s ambitious expansion plans are on course.
Pay rises at Singapore banks
The financial results of all three banks suggest that they are rapidly becoming more lucrative places to work. We’ve already noted that 2015 staff costs per head – total employee expenses (such as salaries and bonuses) divided by total headcount – have shot up at UOB.
The same trend is apparent at DBS (average costs per person up 10.7%) and OCBC (11.3%), as the table below shows. Singaporean banks are struggling to keep a lid on compensation as the job market remains short of talent in some of the main functions they are recruiting in, such as private banking, corporate banking, compliance and risk.
The table also confirms DBS – which has smaller operations proportional to its overall business in lower-paid sectors such as retail banking and insurance – as by far the best paying Singapore bank. Its average cost per employee is almost S$38,000 more than closest rival UOB.
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