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DBS vs OCBC vs UOB: which bank pays the most?

If you’re looking for a job at one of Singapore’s local banks – DBS, OCBC and UOB – you’re probably weighing up factors such as promotion prospects, team dynamics…and pay. On the salary and bonus front, there’s more of a gulf between the firms than you might imagine. DBS is by far the most generous paymaster (on a company-wide basis), according to the banks’ financial results.

Staff costs per head at DBS – total employee expenditure (such as base pay and bonuses) divided by total headcount – were S$31,598 for the first quarter. That’s 28% more than the equivalent figure at UOB (S$24,765) and a whopping 40% ahead of OCBC (S$22,598).

What is pay like at DBS, OCBC and UOB?

DBS’s Q1 remuneration advantage partly reflects its comparatively high bonuses, which are typically paid in that quarter. But DBS is still the clear winner when it comes to annual comp. DBS spent S$118,591 on its average employee last year, according to its 2018 financial results. That’s 35% more than OCBC, as shown in the table below.

What explains DBS’s generosity? It’s partly because DBS employs more high-earning investment bankers than its two rivals – and their pay and bonuses push up the average figure for the whole firm. This is borne out in regional revenue league tables. DBS placed third for Southeast Asia IB revenue last year, ahead of global banks such as Citi, JP Morgan and Standard Chartered, according to Dealogic. OCBC could only muster eighth place, while UOB failed to make the top 10.

DBS’s Institutional Banking unit (which incorporates investment banking, transaction banking and other products) is larger than similar departments at OCBC and UOB. Its operating income was S$1,499m in Q1, compared with S$1,020m at UOB (Group Wholesale Banking) and S$893m (Global Corporate/Investment Banking) at OCBC.

Salaries in trading – another well-paid job function – at DBS are also contributing to the bank’s comparatively high levels of pay. Treasury Markets at DBS (which generated income of S$293m in Q1) is substantially bigger than the markets divisions of UOB (S$144m) and OCBC (S$195m).

Average pay figures across the firms should, of course, be treated with a grain of salt – they don’t mean DBS pays more than its rivals in every function. As we reported last week, for example, Bank of Singapore (OCBC’s wealth unit) has been hiring more relationship managers over the past year and now has the fourth highest RM workforce of any private bank in Asia. BoS would have likely paid top dollar for these new recruits, given the tight labour market in private banking.

Similarly, UOB has been beefing up its technology ranks –  for example to support the launch of its new digital bank, TMRW. Banks, startups, and large tech firms are all competing to recruit developers in Singapore – so UOB’s hiring has not come cheap. The bank’s Q1 report partly attributed a 9% year-on-year rise in total costs on “IT-related expenses” as it “remained committed to investing in talent and technology”.

There’s also some (fairly) good news for all OCBC and UOB employees. As shown in the table below, average pay at these banks increased at a faster rate year on year in 2018 than it did at DBS.

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Image credit: BobPalosaari, Getty

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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