DBS hires 622 as pay continues to climb at Singapore banks

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DBS and OCBC have been hiring in large numbers over the past year, and not just to replace departing employees – their total headcounts are on the up.

In the 12 months to 31 March, staffing numbers at DBS and OCBC rose by 622 and 373 respectively, according to the firms’ first quarter financial results.

While neither bank breaks down its headcount by division, recruiters who work with them say their hiring has focused on corporate banking and wealth management, as well as the evergreen functions of compliance and risk.

“These are the areas in which they compete well for talent against the larger foreign banks in Asia such as Stan Chart, HSBC and Citi,” says one recruiter who asked not to be named.

By contrast, headcount at the other Singaporean bank, UOB, fell by 221 people year-on-year last quarter. Net profit at UOB slipped 4.4% to S$766m over the same period on lower earnings from wealth management, trading and investment.

Meanwhile, as the table below shows, all Singaporean banks are having to pay more to attract and retain staff in what is still a tight job market.

At UOB, for example, staff costs per head – total employee expenses (such as salaries and bonuses) divided by total headcount – went up by 2.9% in Q1 2016 compared with Q1 last year, even as its workforce shrunk. Over the same period OCBC boosted its average pay by almost 5% – far more than Singapore’s annual inflation rate, which currently stands at just 0.6%.

The hiring outlook at Singaporean banks may not be as buoyant over the next 12 months as it has been in the recent past. “Given economic uncertainty in Singapore and across Asia I think they’ll slow down recruitment, especially in the front-office,” says the anonymous recruiter.

OCBC’s headcount will, however, received a shot in the arm later this year when up to 130 Barclays private bankers join its Bank of Singapore unit under a takeover deal agreed last month.

Image credit: lzf, iStock, Thinkstock

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