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Singaporean bankers seek safety in local banks.

Global banks’ bad bonuses make DBS, OCBC more appealing

Some of the gloss is coming off jobs at budge bracket banks in Singapore as investment banking revenues tumble in 2022, bonus expectations fall, and Credit Suisse makes redundancies. And as a result, some bankers are becoming more open to roles at Singaporean banks DBS, OCBC and UOB, who have a reputation for stability and paying decent base salaries.

“If a front-office role at a local bank comes up, I’m seeing above-average interest compared to last year,” says a Singapore-based headhunter. “This may be a short-term thing because bonuses are likely to be bad at the globals for 2022, but it is happening,” he adds.

For the third quarter, Singapore’s banks outperformed Wall Street, with DBS’ 36% fall in investment-banking revenue and OCBC’s 6% fall in revenue significantly better than JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs’ 45% declines. Meanwhile, overall profits at DBS, OCBC and UOB reached record levels.

A BNP Paribas trader in Singapore says he is happy to join a local bank as long as the role is a good fit with his skill set and knowledge. The trader also says he does not place a premium on the “prestige” factor of global banks.

He expects his bonus to be mediocre and “nothing to shout about”, and is now prioritising a high base salary. Local banks typically pay fairly competitive salaries, but struggle to compete with international firms on the bonus front during good years for deal-making.

A Citibank employee from the forex side says he has witnessed several of his teammates move to local banks since the onset of the pandemic.

However, he adds that Citi’s business orientation as a liquidity provider also differs from downstream providers like DBS, OCBC and UOB, which can make it difficult to find a relevant job at a local bank.

With DBS, OCBC and UOB all looking to expand their workforce in the next few years as part of their innovation drives, the flow of candidates from global banks to Singapore banks could very well increase – and not just in the front office.

OCBC, for example, announced earlier this year that it will open up over 1,500 positions over the next three years in the areas of application development, cyber security, data science and artificial intelligence.

Photo by K8 on Unsplash

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