UOB is shedding its reputation as the most conservative paymaster and recruiter among Singapore’s local banks as its 2018 results show upticks in headcount and average compensation.
Staff costs per head at UOB – total employee expenditure (such as salaries and bonuses) divided by total headcount – rose by 5.8% (S$5,090) year on year to reach S$88,475 for 2018. This means UOB, the smallest of the three Singaporean banks, now pays better than rival OCBC, whose average employee took home S$84,699 last year (up 3.6% from 2017).
While earnings at UOB are unlikely to exceed those at DBS (where pay per head was S$116,034 in 2018) any time soon, UOB’s comp is rising at a faster rate. Average pay at DBS limped up 2.2% (S$2,557) last year.
What explains UOB’s inflation-busting generosity? The bank added 1,016 people to its payroll last year (taking its headcount to 26,153) – but more importantly, many of these new recruits are working in well-paid roles. UOB has been hiring in technology, a job sector which is experiencing above-average pay increases because the Singaporean tech talent pool isn’t growing quickly enough to meet demand from global banks, local banks and tech firms.
A 7% year-on-year rise in total (i.e. staff and non-staff related) costs was partly driven by IT-related expenses, reflecting UOB’s “commitment towards investing in talent and technology to improve product capabilities and customer experience and to reap benefits from digitalisation”, according to its 2018 financial results.
UOB’s new digital bank, TMRW, is taking on 60 new people in the year to October, predominately in well-paid specialist jobs such as user experience and user interface design, behavioural science, data analytics, and design thinking. Our October analysis of UOB’s careers site found that nearly one in five of its vacancies were tech-related.
Away from tech, UOB has also been increasing its spending on its expensive front-office employees: those working in group wholesale banking (which serves corporate and institutional clients). A 16% year-on-year cost increase in the division was partly attributed to investments in headcount to “support customer franchise and regional expansion”.
Meanwhile, UOB may be paying better bonuses for 2018 than it did the previous year. The bank also pinned the overall increase in its annual expenses on “higher performance-related staff costs”.
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