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OCBC is hiring, but mostly in three areas

OCBC’s headcount has risen by 712 in just 12 months to reach 30,431 at the end of September, according to its third quarter results released today. The 2% increase comes as some global banks in Singapore (most notably, Deutsche) cut jobs, and it reinforces a growing perception that local banks are more stable employers than their foreign competitors.

Much of OCBC’s headcount increase, however, appears to be driven by just three broad job functions: digital banking, technology and compliance. Third quarter operating expenses grew 6% year-on-year to S$1.13bn at OCBC, mainly from headcount growth as the firm “continued to invest in digitalisation, technology infrastructure and compliance capabilities”.

Like all large banks in Singapore, OCBC has been developing, launching and overhauling digital products over the past year. Earlier this month OCBC streamlined its account opening process for startups, while in October it upgraded its Pay Anyone app. These type of initiatives have fuelled the hiring of both tech professionals (who have a coding focus to their roles) and digital banking specialists (who develop the strategies behind OCBC’s new services).

As we reported in September, for example, OCBC has been recruiting more data scientists for its artificial intelligence lab in Singapore. The unit, which launched last March with a team of just three, now employs about 30 data scientists, and OCBC wants its headcount to reach 40 next year, lab head Ken Wong told us.

OCBC’s tech and digital hiring looks set to continue apace. The bank currently has 39 technology vacancies on its careers site, and is reportedly in talks with Keppel and Validus to form a new digital-bank consortium. Digital customers contribute twice as much revenue as non-digital customers, OCBC said last month. Technology spending, excluding IT staff costs, could reach S$500m or more this year, chief executive Samuel Tsien told the Straits Times.

OCBC’s headcount growth in compliance is likely to be smaller than in technology. Hiring in the function has largely plateaued across the Singapore finance sector as banks reach their ideal headcounts and invest in compliance technology rather than compliance people. Nevertheless, banks including OCBC have been adding staff in anti-money laundering, and OCBC has 12-Singapore based compliance vacancies right now.

While OCBC’s Q3 financial results don’t mention hiring at Bank of Singapore, its private bank has taken on several senior employees recently. In September, BoS hired JP Morgan managing director Adrian Teo, while in August it appointed Kelvin Teo, formerly of Credit Suisse, as head of bespoke investments for Greater China and North Asia.

In 2018, BoS added 20 new relationship managers, taking its RM headcount to 450, and recruiters expect a similar increase by the end of 2019. This expansion appears to be  paying off. Bank of Singapore’s assets under management climbed 5% year-on-year to US$110bn as at 30 September, “underpinned by sustained net new money inflows”, according to OCBC’s Q3 earnings report.

Image credit: RomanBabakin, Getty

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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